do you work in a team or a family?

I have worked in Latin America for many years. I love the Latin culture – especially the emphasis on relationships: relaxed meal times, fiestas for any occasion, inter-generational activities, inclusion of children at events, incredible friendships and loyalty. These characteristics provide an incredible richness to my life.

However, any strength – at its extreme – can also be a weakness. I was often uncomfortable when our organizational staff claimed that we were a “family”. I knew that, although I cared deeply for many of my co-workers, they were not a real family for me. I also knew that we did not treat each other like we would members of a true family. There was something I didn’t like or agree with that statement, although I couldn’t put it into words.

Today I read a blog post by Mark Miller that clarified this exact issue for me. His post helped me to understand that when we view our team through a family perspective, we often allow performance to suffer. This is a common problem for non-profits and religious organizations. I remember many times when we erroneously did not confront poor behavior, implement consequences, or even ask someone to leave the organization… because we did not want to lose a “family” member. This distorted perspective means that we postpone and avoid crucial decisions that often cause great harm to the individual and to the organization. 

This wise comparison comes directly from Mark Miller’s post:

team or family

Mark clarifies that many of the “family” characteristics are great additions to a healthy and fruitful team environment. Applied correctly, these elements create community, which leads to greater trust, shared responsibility, and performance. A sense of community on a team is beneficial, but as Mark says, “However, unlike in a family, to be a member of the community is conditional.”

Does your team work like a team or a like a family?

*** For excellent content on leadership, follow Mark Miller’s blog, Great Leaders Serve, at:

8 thoughts on “do you work in a team or a family?

  1. Wow. Helpful clarification — and makes sense now when I realize that the feedback and role definition I have craved in previous work situations was lacking. We often sited the call to “all hands on deck” but then the roles got confused and measurement was cloudy. This is valuable information, Terry.

    I want to work in community…


  2. Good golly gee whiz, what an eye-opener! I’ve never thought of this before, but we do tend to treat each other and have the verbage of “family” rather than “community”, a HUGE difference. Thanks for making this so clear. And helping me identify why I sometimes feel uncomfortable with those statements!


    • Thanks for being my fan, Dayle! 🙂 You are so encouraging! This was really helpful for me too… as you can see from Steve’s comment, I have struggled with the family “vocabulary” for a while! This was refreshing… and liberating perspective.


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