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Photo by You X Ventures on Unsplash

Coworkers are an important part of determining how much you enjoy your job and even how well you do it. At times, it may seem easier to work with someone you are close with, like a family member, rather than learning the ins and outs of a stranger’s work habits. But working with family can be a blessing or a curse.

Setting clear expectations for yourself and your family member is important for a successful working family relationship. According to an article by Mike Kappel from Forbes, you should “make sure you set clear expectations. Make sure you write a job description for your relatives that clearly communicates exactly what you want them to do.” Even with expectations established in writing, tension at work can easily translate into discourse at home, creating problems with the family dynamic.

“I am not going to lie, there were times when it was really tough,” Karen Tomasello, wine and antipasto pairing expert, said. 

She knows all about the challenges and rewards of working with a family member. Karen has been working with food since she was a student at the University of Maryland, which is where she met her husband, Chef Pino. They have maintained a personal and professional relationship ever since. 

After owning and running multiple restaurants with her husband, Karen is an expert in working with family. Balancing husband/wife roles with coworker roles, however, has not been an easy task. From her husband’s passion and perfectionist attitude to their different roles within their restaurants, tension between them was bound to happen. Karen said that they tried to keep their pillow talk away from the business, but it was hard.

There were many rewarding parts to their professional relationship. Working together toward a common goal, Karen and her husband succeeded in creating a place for themselves within their community.

“As selfish as this is, I loved the attention and the respect we got from the community,” she said. “We have met so many people over the years and established names for ourselves.”

Since selling their last restaurant just before the pandemic hit, Karen and Chef Pino have been enjoying time together and experimenting with using small dinner parties to entertain. Looking back on their time working together, Karen offered this advice for anyone looking to start working with a family member:

“There will be times when you might feel you are working harder than the other person, but you just have to not hold onto that kind of stuff,” she said. “People work differently. Communication is huge. Don’t hold resentment. Map it out when you start, but when the future is unsteady, it is so important to communicate with one another.”

Given the right boundaries, work ethic, and communication, working with family can be incredibly rewarding. 

Make sure to check out Karen’s workshops with us making pizza dough, creating wine and antipasto pairings, and more!