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Wants to Do What's Right—Caught in the Middle

Family Business Caught in the Middle,  Article by Karen Calcagno

Dear Coach Karen C,

Here it is the New Year and I am complaining already. My nephew makes me crazy. I am Managing member of our family LLC. It is my responsibility to get the tax information to our accountant as early as possible. The compiled information from the LLC return must be provided to all the family members for their respective individual 1040 reporting.

Every year my nephew, the LLC Treasurer, is really slow at getting the information to me. To his credit, the quality of his work has improved over the years, but I still must go over it carefully. There are lots of loose ends he just doesn’t see.

It is important to maintain a good relationship with him. Nagging doesn’t seem like a good idea. How can I get him to do the work and get it to me in a timely manner? It matters to a lot of family members, who are constantly asking me for their K-1 returns so they can finish their own taxes. They imply that I have been carelessly late. I don’t want to rat on my nephew. Making him the bad guy doesn’t help. The frustration that develops over this issue feels like a bomb ready to explode.

Signed, Caught in the middle

Dear Caught in the Middle:

I hear your frustration. You are caught in the middle of unmet expectations from many directions—not nice! It sounds like your nephew is not a professional accounting person. It maybe that he has a good deal of uncertainty about what is needed and how to provide it. Procrastination is his temporary solution.

Here are some things that can help him get moving faster:

1. Give him a detailed description of the information you need, and due date well in advance so he can know what he's aiming for.

2. Ask him what he needs to get the job done by the due date. Perhaps there are details about how this information fits into the big picture. That additional understanding might make the job easier for him.

3. Be aware of the way you ask for further clarification. "You dummy", implied in your tone of voice, will only make him feel like more of a failure—and he will want to do less for you.

4. Be appreciative of the work he does. Be sure to notice improvements over last year's experience.

Is there someone better qualified on your leadership team that could do the work of Treasurer? Could you find a bookkeeping company to perform the treasurer functions for your organization? Finding the right person for the job could be a gift to all of you.

You are right, nagging is not a good way to get the job done or maintain a healthy relationship. You are wise to pro-actively seek an agreeable way to solve this problem early in the tax season. Good luck.

“Ask Coach Karen C” offers tips for taking the “maybe” out of your day and monthly advice for working through hard conversations. If you would like help with relationship difficulties, or have a dilemma you think would be a good newsletter topic for “Ask Coach Karen C,” please call or email. All conversations are confidential.

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