Family Affairs

Family Affairs

By Jon Taffer

Jon Taffer is chairman of Taffer Dynamics and host and co-producer of Spike TV's reality show Bar Rescue. From Raise the Bar: An Action-Based Method for Maximum Customer Reactions, with permission from Amazon Publishing/New Harvest. ©2013 by Jon Taffer.

The common denominator among the struggling bars I visit is that the owners or managers of these businesses think of their workers as “family.” What a mistake. Successful businesses have winning teams that promote and encourage winning players and mitigate weakness through peer pressure. Teams work together on clear objectives that force individual members to perform or leave. If a batter strikes out all the time, his team will use various forms of coercion to make him try harder and do better. If the quarterback stinks, he can't contribute to a winning game. A lousy second baseman isn't going to stop enough double plays. If these players display chronic limitations game after game, their days are numbered. The coach can't afford to keep them around—the weakest players must be eliminated.

Families, on the other hand, protect and coddle their weakest members; often they enable relatives who might be better off with a kick in the pants. But it is the nature of families to shield the vulnerable and excuse the faint of heart. That's why the expression “we're like family here” drives me crazy, because it suggests a dysfunctional organization. In a work setting, the “cancer of nurturing” promotes paying attention to weak employees while ignoring stellar performers because you think they don't “need” you. That's rewarding exactly the wrong person. What you get in return is a poor performer who does not improve and a frustrated and resentful talented worker who will eventually quit or perhaps exact revenge in some other way. Never allow social or familial motivations to take priority over business objectives.

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The Conference Board Review is the quarterly magazine of The Conference Board, the world's preeminent business membership and research organization. Founded in 1976, TCB Review is a magazine of ideas and opinion that raises tough questions about leading-edge issues at the intersection of business and society.