telling family members to stop showing up at our store while my husband and I are working

A reader writes:

Is it reasonable to ask our family members to NOT visit us during working hours ? My husband and I have a shop, and at present family members come and go as they wish, which I find very disruptive. My husband is uncomfortable about telling them to stay out of our business life. I was taught to keep business and family separate.

It’s absolutely reasonable to ask family members not to drop by your store to visit while you’re working, just like you’d expect them not to randomly show up at your workplace for social time if you worked in an office.

People who work from home sometimes have a similar complaint about friends and family assuming they’re free for calls, visits, or running errands just because they’re not in an office all day.

But in both cases, this is your workplace and your work day, and you’re working. It’s completely reasonable to say something like, “We love seeing you, but we can’t have visitors at the store when we’re working.” If you want to soften this, you could follow it up with, “How about getting together next weekend instead?”

And if people don’t listen to that and continue showing up, you can reinforce it by not rewarding that behavior — meaning that if they show up at your store to socialize again, you’d say, “I’m sorry but since we’re working right now, we can’t visit with you. Should we give you a call when we’re back at home?” Do that a few times and people will realize it’s not worth their while to keep showing up.

But I see two other issues here, possibly bigger ones: First, your husband sees this differently than you do — and ideally you’d find a way to both get on the same page about this. (Although if it comes down to it, you can each set your own separate boundaries with family members. Maybe he’s okay with socializing with them during the work day, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t draw boundaries for yourself, by explaining that you have your hands full then and can’t talk.)

But second, if you’re thinking of this as telling family members to “stay out of our business life” (the words you used in your letter), you might be approaching this in a more adversarial way than is needed. I mean, certainly if they’re nosing around in your business decisions and prying into your finances or something, that would be a reasonable sentiment (although you’d ideally find a less heated way to say it), but if they’re just showing up wanting to visit, a less prickly approach will probably get you better results. But I may be reading more into your wording choice than is warranted.

{ 73 comments… read them below }

  1. Cristina in England

    I would like to know more about the family members behavior when they’re in the store. In an ideal world, family and friends would come by often, buy something, say hi, and then go about their day. I suspect it is the length of their visits and the amount of your attention they want while they’re there that’s the problem. Maybe you could address the individual behaviors instead of trying to apply a blanket ban (which seems excessive unless they are actually worth cutting out of your life).

  2. MK

    I would like to know how long this has been going on. If this is a shop that has been in the family for years (generations) and this has been a long-established pattern, the OP might have a hard time resetting boundaries, especially without her husband’s full support. Hard to convince your mother-in-law that she shouldn’t come to chat on her lunch break, if that’s what she has been doing forever. It would be considerably more easy, I think, if they only just opened the shop.

    I would also like to know what exactly bothers the OP about her family members’ behavior. I mean, a shop is by definition a place what people come and go as they wish, so why is it so very disruptive? Do the relatives demand the OP and her husband stop their work and entertain them? How do they involve themselves in the OP’s business life, to the point that she wants to tell the to but out? (This has made me wonder if perhaps the shop has been passed down to the OP and her husband by a parent or other family member. Is perhaps this person not willing to accept their retirement?)

    Also, and this is just my personal experience from my father’s shop, keeping business and family/friends separate when you run a shop (especially one where relatives shop themselves) is not very reallistic. There is really no “safe” way to tell people not to come to see you at your shop, without risking offending them.

    1. Corry

      Some customers wait for you to be “free” before asking a question or getting help, and some family members want to talk with you the entire time you aren’t actively helping a customer, meaning that shy customers won’t ever approach you, so you lose that business. If the family member isn’t equally attentive to the customers, they won’t ever recognize the behavior (especially if they are busy talking to you).

      1. MK

        True. On the other hand, in some cases and especially in new shops, the word-of-mouth advertising from family and friends is invaluable in getting established. You want all your cousins to babble enthusiastically about your place to everyone they meet, which they probably won’t do if they feel you keeping them at a distance.

  3. Csarndt

    I guess I would want to know more about the behaviors, too. If you’re busy and they want to come in to the back office and chat about their cat’s or kid’s latest bowel movement then “I’m sorry, I’m right in the middle of payroll (or other business activity)” should suffice. If they are customers, but are extra chatty at the only cash register then “I’m sorry, but I need to give other customers my attention, let’s chat over coffee at my next break (or other social activity and business appropriate time)” should suffice. If they stop by to chat and interrupt your browsing facebook and/or playing candy crush then you probably need to suck it up and make small talk just as you would at the dinner table at their house. As other pointed out, the level of involvement varies based on past ownership/employment, too.

    My FIL and MIL have a shop that was his dad’s before that and we all drop in whenever. Sometimes we call ahead, sometime we schedule a time to do an activity (upgrade computers, design and build something, repair something, cut down trees, etc) sometimes we just show up unannounced and plop our hind ends in chairs and chat a bit. It’s kind of the cost of having family support your business (and upgrade your computers, and work for you on the weekends when you get a big rush order and your regular assistant isn’t available and it’s a two person job, or need some trees cut down) and maybe sets you back half an hour in your day, but it’s time you spent catching up with family. I’ve worked for two other family businesses and both ran this way without any major upheaval to productivity.

    1. Saturn9

      You’re assuming a lot about how the OP runs her business based on your own experiences.

      There is a difference between “a shop where the owners’ family likes to stop by frequently” and a “family business.” I don’t see any indication in the letter that this is the latter.

      1. catsAreCool

        I don’t think Csarndt’s assuming so much as throwing out some ideas for what might be going on.

  4. CA

    Firstly, thank you everyone for taking the time to comment on my post.

    @MK You are correct in thinking that the shop was previously owned by a family member, namely my mother-in-law and sister-in-law . We bought the shop 15 years ago after it had almost been ran into the ground and we managed to save it, turning it into a very successful business. Three of our family members were previously employed in our shop (on a part-time basis) and they still each hold a key for ’emergencies’. They have always visited the shop on a regular basis which was never a problem, but now some family members have taken to visiting for 3-4 hours at a time, sometimes even the whole day. It has kind of become a meeeting point for the whole family. I noticed it was becoming a problem when my husband wasn’t getting things done when family members had been hanging around for hours. He is the first to admit that he does find it distracting at times but doesn’t know how to get out of the habit of allowing them to visit, as and when they please. I have suggested that they call before visiting and, if possible, that they visit on our lunch break when the shop is closed. I personally think that this is a fair solution.

    As far as ‘butting in’ goes, my mother-in-law still sees the shop as her own and I think this is where part of the problem lies. She is always asking about the financial side of our business, has helped herself to her wages without clearing it with us first and my husband has found her snooping through the books on more than one occassion.

    I think we will just have to set new boundaries and hope that the family can see our side of things.

    Once again, thank you for your input.

    1. Pucksmuse

      -You and your husband need to get on the same page. You need to sit down and have a discussion about how his family’s behavior is affecting the BUSINESS. Not you or your feelings, the BUSINESS.

      -Point out tasks that are not getting done because their visits. Cleaning, balancing the books, restocking, etc. None of that is getting done if he or you are sitting with family visiting.

      -Point out the number of customers you haven’t been able to help because Uncle Bob was telling you his deep sea fishing story and the customers got tired of waiting for your attention, then left.

      – Point out the opportunities for expansion and growth you’ve missed because you’re busy playing catch up, trying to get things done in the hours that his relatives aren’t there.

      -Change the locks. Tell the current key holders that you’re upgrading the security for the shop and new locks were part of the deal.

      -Lock your books and cash in a secure location to which MIL does not know the code/combination/location of the key. And then have a discussion with husband about the importance not giving the code/combination/key to MIL. She doesn’t need to know the exact financials of the business. It’s not her business anymore. And she definitely doesn’t need to “help herself” to her wages without telling you. That’s theft. And it throws off your balances, your accounts, etc.

      When she asks about the financials, tell her, “Oh, we’re doing great! Thanks for asking” and then change the subject to something they would find interesting.

      -When they come into the shop and plop their butts on the chairs or want to spend the whole day chatting, tell them, “I’m sorry, this isn’t a great time to visit. I’ve got TPS reports I’ve got to file.” and then STICK WITH IT. give your attention to your work and your customers. This is not a family clubhouse, it’s a business. If there is a seating area in a break room, ask them to chat back there. If they’re meeting in the store area, replace their seating with display space or something productive. Is this cold? Maybe. But this is a business, a place to earn money. If they want to visit, they can go meet for coffee at a restaurant.

      I struggle with this as I work from home at something that people don’t consider a “real job.” (Writing.) People think I can watch their kids, wait for the cable guy at their house, run errands for them. Or they show up at my door and want to have coffee and chat that lasts for hours. I finally had to tell them, “I’m sorry, I have a deadline coming up and I can’t visit/run your errands/watch your kids. If I miss my deadline, I don’t get paid.”

      When I put it in terms of concrete timeframes and money, they … well, they were still insulted, but it was hard for them to argue that they were more important than my grocery budget.

      Good luck.

      1. Squirrel!

        OP, you need to listen to all of this. There is no reason anyone should have free access to your financial information OR your money, regardless of who it is.

      2. Elizabeth West

        Excellent advice. Especially the bit about the OP and her husband being on the same page. It’s like dealing with children–you have to present a united front.

      3. Alistair

        I hadn’t even considered the notion tha MIL ‘taking her wages’ was theft, I had just viewed it as a semi-harmless thing that you would roll your eyes at. You’re absolutely right! She’s taking money from your business without your permission.

        I bet if you worked for her, she would have been up in arms immediately had you ‘taken your wages’ without asking.

        1. Willow+Sunstar

          I would agree that it is a form of theft, if there was no legal agreement for her to get part of the wages.

          1. Melissa

            Even if there is, she’s not supposed to help herself. There’s accounting and taxes that go into payroll at businesses; she has to go through the proper channels just as if she were working somewhere not owned by her son and daughter-in-law.

          2. Sharon

            No, even if there is a legal agreement that she gets wages, taking them for herself is theft. What do you think would happen if I walked into my company’s payroll department and logged onto their computer and cut myself a check for this month, and walked out?

    2. MK

      Have you consider putting them to work? If someone looks set to stay for hours, try “Well, since you are here and don’t seem to be in a hurry to go anywhere, you can help me reorganise the stockroom! There are some huge crates there that I cannot move by myself.”. I think you will find they won’t be stopping by for hours after that.

      1. Artemesia

        I’d be afraid that would blue the lines about whose business this is. If MIL ‘works there’ then she will feel even more entitled to snoop and steal money as her ‘wages.’ I wouldn’t go there with previous owners.

    3. Artemesia

      Tricky. The snooping and ‘helping self’ should be ended absolutely and the best way to do this is to have this information and resources locked up securely. I would also change the locks. Have an excuse; perhaps install better more secure locks and then don’t give out keys to anyone who really doesn’t need to have a key. (good luck on your husband on that one) If the money and the books are well secured under lock and key, this might not be as big an issue. The ‘helping self to wages’ thing is particularly egregious.

      This all does sound like the kind of behavior that ran the place into the ground in the first place i.e. not being businesslike. Changing it will depend on your husband’s ability to tactfully discourage it by not ‘playing’ when he should be working. But all this is the hazard of a family business.

    4. just laura

      Holy cow. Totally not acceptable, mother-in-law! This is going to work only if yiur husband is 100% on board with it and if he is the enforcer. Good luck!

    5. INTP

      Maybe try wording your requests something like this:
      “Husband and I love chatting with you at the store. However, we really need to (do inventory/stock shelves/process payroll/whatever) and when there’s something more fun to do like chat with you, I find that I just don’t have the willpower to stay focused on the boring stuff. Would you guys mind limiting your visits to lunch time/once a week/after closing/10 minutes/etc? As you know, it’s a lot of work trying to keep a family business afloat these days and we can only stay in business by running as efficiently as possible.”

      That way you make it your problem (“I just love chatting too much to stop!”) instead of theirs. And even if the business isn’t in trouble at all, if everyone sees it as communal family property instead of your own, hopefully a subtle reminder like that will make them feel a sense of responsibility too.

      With your MIL and the financial stuff, could you move it to an electronic system or other new system or accounts where she doesn’t have the passwords or authority to just take money or view information at will? Then when she asks, give vague answers or only information you feel comfortable sharing. (I am kind of a control freak and can identify with really, really wanting to know what’s going on with a business I ran for years, plus if she nearly ran it into the ground she probably feels anxious about its stability now. I don’t think curiosity or asking questions are out of line on her part, but snooping, taking money, or demanding answers definitely are.)

    6. catsAreCool

      How about:

      1. Changing the locks. If there are a few family members you trust with the keys, give them a copy.
      2. Putting your financial books in a place where no one but you and your husband can get to them.
      3. Set it up so that people can’t help themselves to the business money. How did mil get to the “wages”.
      4. After family has been hanging out about 2 hours, put them to work! That will clear some of them out :)

      1. Jazzy Red

        Here’s a change to #4
        After family has been hanging out about *15 minutes*, put them to work!

        Do you know how much business they can lose in 2 hours? If they’re trying to discourage family member from treating their business like a hobby, they (the OP & husband) need to make it a place where people are not allowed to come and “hang out”. After saying hello, give them a broom or have them clean the restroom. When they finish, give them another task until they decide it’s not a lot of fun being there, and they let you get back to business.

  5. Not So NewReader

    Your paragraph about your MIL helping herself to her wages is really something that needs to be addressed.

    Family run business are kind of dicey- I think that this really has to come from your husband because it’s his mother- but change the locks/passwords. Put the money/checkbook in a safe and don’t let anyone have the combination. Stop answering questions about the finances- sometimes you could say “I am concentrating on X right now and I can’t get too involved in that discussion.

    In retail there is a rule of thumb that family and friends are not supposed to hang out while the employee is working. I don’t see how you can get things done if people are there for 3-4 hours or all day. I think it is totally reasonable to say “if you stay longer than X time, we are going to consider you an employee and put you to work”.
    You can say things such as “what would happen if we hung out in your work place day after day?”. Or for non-working people, “Suppose I sat down in your kitchen every day for hours at a clip?” Hopefully, you can find a humorous approach first and that works.

    I will say this, if I walk into a place and I see a bunch of people who all know each other and are endlessly yakking, I tend to leave. I know that even if I do get waited on, if I need to come back later for help or service, it’s going to be more waiting around.

    It is very hard, but when you run a business sometimes you have to tell people things they don’t want to hear and you don’t want to say. Until your husband becomes inconvenienced enough to speak up, this situation will probably persist. All you can do is affirm that he is not being unreasonable, at all. This is your livelihood, this is what puts food on your table. Encourage him not to wait until he is screaming angry, but rather speak up now. The longer this goes on the harder it will be to say something- it will not get easier.

    1. jhhj

      I want to strongly agree with “If I go to a place where it’s a bunch of friends or family hanging out I will feel uncomfortable and leave and probably not return”. (See also: a store where people are making personal phone calls. I will usually give that more than one chance, but not more than two. I’m sure there are exceptions which I haven’t thought of offhand.)

      I’d bet that this weird way of hanging out is part of why the store didn’t do well the first time. OP, I wish you luck, because if they come in while you are open, changing the locks will do nothing. And if your MIL just takes money from you and goes through your financials, you are in a lot more trouble than you are describing it.

      1. Artemesia

        Good point. They ruined the business and are not going to ruin the new owner’s business ‘because well, it is really ours anyway.’

        I too would not shop at a place where a party was constantly going on and I felt like I was interrupting old home week when I wanted attention.

      2. MK

        Here the thing, though; there enough people who find this a non-issue or even charming, so it’s really not an ironclad argument that family hanging around is losing you customers. I personally wouldn’t mind people sitting around talking and I find listening to other people’s personal calls mostly entertaining. There are those who patronise small shops because they prefer the personal atmosphere, even taking the delay in service in stride. Honestly, I don’t think that’s the OP’s problem; this is a long-established family shop, people know what it’s like when they walk in.

        1. MsM

          It’s not ironclad, no, but there’s enough division of opinion on the subject that it is a legitimate problem. You’re not going to turn anyone off by having more of a professional vibe as long as you’re responsive and courteous to the customers.

          1. MK

            If it was a new shop, I would agree that being professional is safer. But in this particular case, you have a place that’s been a sort-of family meeting place for years. If the atmosphere were to change to a more formal vibe, there is a risk that longtime customers will feel alienated.

            1. Saturn9

              My understanding is that before the OP and her husband purchased the business, it was going under. If being professional could result in new customers and increased profit while (somehow) potentially alienating a customer base that wasn’t bringing in enough money to keep the doors open before, I don’t really see the issue.

              1. MK

                But that doesn’t seem to be the case. The OP mentioned that they bought the shop 15 years ago and are succeeding without changing the character of the place; if they had just bought a failing business, it would be much simpler to change things, since it’s expected of new owners.

        2. jhhj

          Well, I agree that it depends how they are hanging out, and how responsive they are to customers who enter. I don’t mind a delay in service in a small shop; I don’t want to feel like I am interrupting their personal lives.

          You can have a friendly vibe in a place without the employees acting like they are at home and not at work.

        3. Three Thousand

          The shop was failing before though, so keeping it the way it was before probably won’t work.

      3. A Bug!

        I know I’ve been to one or two businesses where the atmosphere made me feel as if I was intruding on someone’s family life. It’s certainly something that would keep me away from a business unless I had no practical alternative.

        I’ve also been into businesses that were clearly “family-owned and operated” but were still customer-oriented. In such places the homey feel can be a benefit.

        My gut tells me that family members who are terrible at observing any sort of boundaries may also be the type who create the first type of atmosphere rather than the second. But even then, sometimes a business can survive and even thrive only on the patronage of friends and family. Alienating the “friends and family” customer base now might reduce the income without necessarily increasing the “stranger” customer base, because the latter might already have written off the business.

    2. Episkey

      Very true. My family & I went to a local restaurant one time for my birthday. It was mid-afternoon on a weekend day and we were clearly the only patrons in the restaurant at the time that were not friends/family of the owner, who, BTW, was dressed head-to-toe in a Puma velour track suit (not very professional, IMO). We were given pretty poor service as it was clear the priority was on socializing/yakking with the friends/family. We felt almost uncomfortable, like we were intruding on some private party. The place was not cheap either. We’ve never gone back and won’t be likely to in the future.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Something is wrong with me, because I would consider the head-to-toe velour track suit a bonus. Several times I’ve proposed to my husband that we have matching head-to-toe velour track suits in which to lounge around the house (possibly complete with matching velour sweatbands for our foreheads), and he refuses.

        1. Episkey

          Lounging around the house in a Puma velour track suit – totally awesome. Schmoozing as the owner of a higher end restaurant in a Puma velour track suit? – eyebrow raising lolol. It was pretty funny at the time, though. The poor service part was not. :/

        2. fposte

          I don’t have the tops, but velour pants are the *best*. They are my go-to loungewear. And they are extremely popular with cats–a person in velour pants is a heated pillow with a wonderfully soft pillowcase.

          1. Former Diet Coke Addict

            Equally popular with cats (and humans in our house) are the fleece sheets. The cats vault into bed immediately after we get out and we have to chase them out in order to make it. You just cannot beat fleece sheets for the warmest, coziest bed, and apparently cats feel very strongly about that too.

        3. Artemesia

          The biggest crisis in my now 40 year plus marriage was the year I gave my husband a velour track suit for Christmas. He considers them ‘nursing home pajamas’ and was horrified and appalled. He is normally totally gracious about gifts; not this time. I took it back post haste. He wasn’t even amused — it was that bad.

  6. Three Thousand

    If this were me, I would be changing the locks and the quickbooks password so fast it would make your head spin, but I’m not sure how I would deal with blowback from that. These people clearly think of the shop as still “theirs” even though they no longer work there. They certainly have the same right as anyone else to come in when the shop is open, but having the keys (and direct access to the bank account, apparently) gives them a sense of ownership that they shouldn’t have.

    1. Lynn Whitehat

      I think she has more of a marriage problem than a business-running problem at this point. She probably has some control over her personal time and attention while at the shop, but anything more than that is not going to stick unless her husband agrees. Not only in principle, but agrees to take her side when his family of origin gets ticked off, which they will.

      She can change the locks, and he’ll give them new keys. She can change the quickbooks password, and he’ll give them the new one. She can take extra chairs out back to the dumpster and he will bring new chairs right in the front door. I don’t know the guy, of course, but the OP says he’s uncomfortable telling his family to back off, and I don’t see how she’ll make much headway without him getting comfortable. Or at least willing.

      1. Artemesia

        This. The idea that someone in the family ‘needs the key for emergencies’ will be the death of good sense. In fact no one needs the key except the owners. If a substitute is going to be working, temporary key arrangements can be made. It is about privilege and ‘it is really ours’ and we can do what we want.

        The husband is key; the process can be somewhat tactful — but only if he is in agreement.

  7. C Average

    These don’t sound like reasonable people.

    If they WERE reasonable people, this is what I’d do:

    –Remind them that the health of the business–of which they’re trickle-down recipients, since it’s a family asset that keeps at least some family members employed and solvent–depends on the employees’ ability to put the customers’ and the store’s needs first. Family members who come in and loiter impact customer experience and store efficiency and jeopardize the health of the business.

    –Remind them that customers are paying for a particular kind of experience–assistance and attention from the employees, a welcoming store atmosphere where they can freely ask questions, get help, etc.–and if non-customers are just hanging out and interfering with these things, it’s compromising their experience. This is not fair to customers and it’s bad for the business.

    –Bribe them to go away. My lovely but very chatty mom used to come visit me in a cafe/gift shop I managed in the summer in college. She would order a latte, hang out forever, and not buy anything else. I told her it was a problem and explained why, and I offered to BUY her a latte, somewhere else, on my day off, and hang out with her for an hour or so and give her my undivided attention–but only if she would stay out of the store on my workdays. She was initially hurt–I was a blunt, know-it-all twentysomething with no finesse, so this isn’t surprising–but she agreed to it and it worked.

    –Per Three Thousand’s suggestion above, change the locks and tighten up your overall access to accounts and other assets.

  8. Williamsem

    I’d see if there is some type of business or security consult you can get inexpensively. Maybe some sort of consult for free from a small business counsel or state agency? Anyone that you can make sound Official and Expert. Then along with whatever they actually suggest, if not included, add enhanced security measures like upgraded locks, new more secure passwords, security cameras (put in some fake ones, but let the family think they are real), secure the books and bank accounts, etc, etc…. Plus you may get some good advice about things you can do/change to enhance customer experience, which would of course include less chatting with family.

    If you do this as part of a larger overall improvement plan to move the business to the next level I think it might go over better. Just make it clear you’ve had an expert in, and have discussed everything together and you and hubby are on the same page as far as the new improvements.

    Sure you can just address a few individual behaviors, but this may be less confrontational and feel less personal and shift the focus to “making the business better” so you can grow.

    1. Lee

      +1
      This is brilliant, it totally takes the personal out of the equation, which leaves less room for hurt feelings. You can even start with “I’ve been doing internet research in improving management at chocolate teapot businesses, and the advice is…”
      As a contract worker with a home office, I know it can be tough. Good luck!

    2. Csarndt

      You don’t even have to go that far….”I lost my shop key and we are rekeying.” And then put a lock on the office door while you’re at it. Take out the extra chairs. And your husband is choosing to let them distract him so he needs to be more honest with them when he’s busy and they are keeping him from working.

      1. Three Thousand

        If you claim to be changing the locks because you lost your key, they’re just going to ask for copies of the new key, so you want to be prepared with an answer for that. Upgrading security might work as an explanation, but they still might not understand why they don’t get copies of the new keys.

  9. Katie the Fed

    Is your husband/his family from Asia or the Middle East, by chance? Because this is really common in some cultures. My husband and I have an Iraqi restaurant nearby that we absolutely love and we’re always entertained by the constant parade of family members who come and go all the time.

    That might change the calculus a little, because navigating some cultural issues can be really tricky.

    1. MK

      I don’t get the impression that the OP is looking to change everything to a bussiness-only model (maybe because she realises it wouldn’t be possible). Simply contain the more boundary-crossing behaviors, which seem to be a recent development.

  10. Mena

    At its worst, this could be passive aggressive – you are their captive audience. Let’s assume they just want to catch up. Try to make the visit NOT worth their while: stock or take on other tasks if customers are not present to occupy you (“Sorry but I need to stay focused on getting this new display arranged” “Oh, nice to see you. Sorry I can’t chat – I need to call a vendor and place an order.”)

    1. Student

      The best way to make it not worth their while, IMO, is to put anyone standing around idly gossiping to work.

      “Since you two aren’t busy, help me restock the douche bags in pharmacy!”

      “Francine, since you aren’t busy, give me a hand over here. Here’s a vacuum. Be a dear and go over aisle 3 for me while I’m dealing with the register!”

  11. Willow+Sunstar

    OP definitely needs to set boundaries. Your wages are your wages, unless there was some sort of contract legally where the MIL was allowed a certain percentage, or you had some sort of other agreement to give your MIL part of the wages. I have read case studies in MBA school where verbal agreements did not stand up in court, so at least get that part of the deal written up formally and signed, notarized, etc. just to protect yourself legally.

    1. Artemesia

      If she is in fact owed money monthly she still doesn’t TAKE — she is given it. There is no reason at all she should be able to access the till, or the bankbook.

  12. Dawn88

    If you legally bought the business from the MIL, how dare she “help herself” to any money?
    Why or HOW does she even have any access to it?

    CHANGE THE LOCKS. Standard procedure during change of ownership.
    Then change your banking password…heck, I’d change the bank to another one!

    1. Artemesia

      Changing banks is a great idea especially if this is a small town where bankers are notorious for not keeping bright boundaries — just like you wouldn’t use the same doctor as your MIL.

      I love the suggestion of the ‘security consultant’ (even if it is a figment of your imagination) Using a technical sounding rationale for changing how you bank, store secure documents, manage keys etc makes a mildly tactful change possible. And if there are chairs in the place where they can lounge around, get rid of those unless it is central to the business to have them.

      1. MommaTRex

        I don’t think the consultant need to be a figment of imagination–I think the AAM readers can count as a free consultant group! How many years of business experience are behind all these comments? Hundreds, for sure!

  13. CA (Original poster)

    Many, many thanks for your comments. I would like to reply to each and every one of them but I think it’ll make for easier reading if I write it all down in one post.

    The long family visits are a recent thing (approx. 1 year) and up until then family would usually only pop in for a quick hello and maybe a coffee, which is fine. As many of you have pointed out, the problem starts when they hang around for too long expecting to be entertained the whole time. Unfortunately, we’ve even had to witness family discussions/arguments in the back office while customers are standing in the shop within hearing distance. Thankfully we have been able to put a stop to it as most family members now usually visit seperately (they have their own issues with each other) which makes for more relaxed visits.

    After much discussion my husband and I are now on the same page and we’ve already started implementing some of the suggestions mentioned above. The family members no longer hold keys to the shop. My mother-in-law was slightly miffed by our request but accepted our decision without argument. She’s had access to the till/safe because she occassionally worked in the shop when hubby and I had to take time out for appointments etc. but that obviously doesn’t give her the right to take her wages without asking. Up until last week, she basically sat around in the shop for hours at a time (not as an employee ) which we’ve now put a stop to. Other family members also got into the habit of ‘dropping by’ for hours as they seem to have nothing better to do with their time but as one poster stated, we’re not a playground !

    As I mentioned earlier, we’ve suggested that they call before turning up and if they want to spend more time chatting they can visit on our lunch break or meet up for a coffee. There is no need for them to visit at any other time as they don’t shop in our store. We’re hoping they’ll stick to the rules which we think are pretty fair.

    As far as privacy/security goes, our family members will no longer be able to enter the premises unless it’s through the shop door during opening times. The books will be locked away and if they do happen to be lying around when someone visits we can either move to another part of the office to continue working away from prying eyes or put them away to be finished later . We’ve also removed the seating area (table and a couple of comfy chairs) out of the back office and have replaced it with a single chair so visitors don’t get too comfy. Should need be, we can bring the comfy seating/table back out when we have sales reps, accountant etc. visiting for longer periods.

    All in all I’d say we are on the right track. I imagine that the new boundaries will take some getting used to for some family members (especially my mother-in-law) but it is definately something that needed to be done. I can already see the changes in my husband who seems more relaxed at work.

    1. JMegan

      Wow, that’s a terrific update, and it definitely sounds like you’re on the right track with everything!

  14. HR Manager

    Even happens at work. My mom, who is sometimes on a different planet, calls me at work for the most non-urgent things. If it were a quick call, that’s one thing, but she makes calls over the most inconsequential things ever. And sometimes, if she doesn’t get me live, she keeps calling…non-stop. She doesn’t get voicemail, so just leaving me a message doesn’t seem to be an option.

    This pretty much happens most days of my life, so it’s not like she looks to call me at work. Just she calls me whenever the thought or question pops into her head.

    But yeah – set boundaries with them. I try to with my mom, but she doesn’t get it. She think calling about her oven settings is an actual emergency, so I kind of gave up.

    1. MommaTRex

      Do you have caller ID? I’d screen my calls from her–let her leave a message and you can listen later to ascertain if they are an emergency. She might get the hint after only getting your voice mail.

      1. HR Manager

        Yes, I do and sometimes that works. Sometimes she leaves the message and then will try me right back in 10 minutes. And again. And again. And again. I think I hit the record when I was in a very important meeting with an AVP at my company having a very difficult conversation. My mom decided to call me about 6 times in row, and I kept having to send her to voicemail. I was so pissed off at her. Her all important message was that she was planning on dropping by some soup at my house that evening.

        1. MommaTRex

          I was going to say that I feel your pain, but I really don’t. My mom doesn’t even come close to this. You have my deepest sympathies!

        2. Annonymouse

          Have you tried being super blunt with her?
          Mum, when you call frequently without leaving a message it makes it hard for me to work or be taken seriously.

          You calling so much for non emergencies could actually get me fired. Do you realise that?

          From now on only call me if it is an emergency (you or family member injured, gravely ill or in immediate physical danger).

          Anything else just send me a text and I’ll respond either on my lunch break or after work.

  15. Karen Garvin

    I’m late to the party here, but try asking them to do things for you when they’re in the shop. Once they realize they are “free labor” they might decide not to drop by so often. ;)

Comments are closed.