Family Works: Merging Business and Personal Life

Long-term relationships between humans aren’t easy. People are unique, and relationships can fall apart if they aren’t tended to properly. Getting it right and connecting with another person through the long haul of life’s ups and downs is one of the most joyful and rewarding experiences on earth.

Stewart Jeske, P.E. and I have been happily married (most of the time) for 36 years and successfully worked together since 2000. As we travel the glass, glazing and construction industry trade show circuit, I realize we’re not alone. This industry is filled with great relationships, families and friends; all hard at work making a difference in the glazing community.

Here’s a few lessons we’ve learned along the way that have allowed us to thrive rather than merely just survive (as sometimes we find ourselves doing for a season).

Respect Boundaries

Establishing and respecting boundaries at work and home is the most important lesson learned. My rolls at JEI include marketing, human resources and collections. Stewart is operations, engineering and accounting. We learned early on that other people don’t always realize our boundaries and self-designated roles. Even inside the company, people forget. And because we’re married, they may ask him a marketing question or me an engineering question. Since we work closely and spend much of our personal time together, often we know each other’s answer, but stepping outside of our roles is a mistake.

We have found that answering a question outside our designated boundary robs us of the opportunity to build a relationship and establish mutual trust with others. In addition, it can undermine authority or complicate the achievement of departmental goals.

Directing the asker to the appropriate departmental overseer works best, as it does for any high-performing work team. This avoids the stress of hard conversations between partners, which starts with frustrations and toe stepping, then ends with an exasperated “maybe we just shouldn’t work together” comment or thought. The upside to avoiding these relationship faux pas is greater respect and communication.

Guarding time boundaries is also important. When both people are fully committed to the job, it’s easy to talk business during evenings and weekends. That may be fine in most cases, but remember taking time away from work to relax is important to recharge and accelerate performance.

Talk Nice

My grandparents loved each other but bickered all the time. In my family, it is not uncommon for us to poke fun at each other. We call each other humorous names like Goober, Dufus or Boob and teasing is a common pastime. It’s usually received in good humor. It’s our way of accepting mistakes in ourselves and gently pointing out the mistakes of others. For us, it’s a vital function of providing feedback as well as laughs and acceptance. It grounds us in a positive way to each other, because when you accomplish a lot together, some details are bound to get crossed or forgotten.

However, we don’t joke this way at the office. To do so would denigrate the other partner in front of our team and undermine authority. At both home and the workplace we pepper in a lot of common courtesy language such as “please” and “thank you.” This sets a good example and displays fundamental respect, which is essential for a healthy work environment.

Also, avoid cussing in the workplace. In today’s world, foul language is often overused in ineffective ways. Although it may feel like a good way to release energy, bad language in the workplace can undercut team moral when it’s used to belittle others and can convey unprofessionalism to those who hear it. Even outbursts that aren’t directed at anyone can reinforce a pessimistic mindset.

Avoid PDA (most of the time)

Touch is my love language. Three months after marriage, I attend the Officer Training Graduation Ceremony in San Antonio, where Stewart became a 1st Lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force. We hadn’t seen one another all that time, so my need to connect was high. We had always held hands, walked with arms around each other, and kissed in public. The Air Force would have none of that. He alerted me, quickly, to the NO PUBLIC DISPLAY OF AFFECTION (PDA) while in uniform rule. I wasn’t happy. It took me years to accept and
follow that protocol, but in my old age, I finally appreciate its value. PDA can make others uncomfortable, and it does shine a spotlight on the personal nature of a relationship, which isn’t always helpful for colleagues to remember. At work, a professional business attitude is best. But of course, never forget to snuggle up on your day off!

Worlds Collide

When I was younger, I kept all my groups separate: work, family, church, hobbies. Nowadays, I prefer they collide. As I’ve gotten older and achieved a higher level of success, I look back at how important human interactions and relationships have been toward achieving my goals. Past co-workers, bosses, friends and family members have a way of coming back around geographically, relationally or circumstantially in unusual and unexpected ways. The adage about not burning bridges is wise and true.

With the rise of social networks, it’s easier than ever to see who you know. Birds of a feather do tend to flock together, so when I meet high quality people that I enjoy, I like introducing them to other high-quality people I enjoy.

And Finally

Life moves fast. Spending time with people you enjoy at work and in your personal time can be a great source of joy and accomplishment. In our modern society, choosing who to spend limited time with is both important and thankfully totally in our control. Time spent with family, friends, and co-workers who you value and enjoy can revitalize you and create synergy highly sought after in our competitive business world. The best long-term relationships between people involve candid communication, mutual respect, tested loyalty, requested forgiveness and earned trust over years of time with a healthy dose of articulated self-analysis. It’s not always simple or easy. The best things in life usually aren’t. But practicing the tips contained in this article can make it just a tiny bit easier. See you at work, a trade show cocktail hour or on the pickleball court!

Carrie Jeske is the vice president of marketing, human resources and collections for JEI Structural Engineering in St. Louis.

To view the laid-in version of this article in our digital edition, CLICK HERE.