As an outplacement professional, I have worked with hundreds of men and women who have lost their jobs. One of the initial areas of concern, among others, is how to communicate being jobless with family members -- what do I say? Do I wait for them to ask? Do I simply avoid the subject as days become weeks of unemployment? Here's an idea that you and your family may find of value: family meetings. Perhaps you're already holding them, however, if you aren't, maybe now would be a good time to consider starting such an activity.
What is a family meeting, you may wonder, as it relates to being between jobs? A family meeting is similar to any other meeting where information is exchanged for a common purpose. Listed below are a few ground rules, along with a few benefits of family meetings:
- Team participation and buy-in are both important and necessary to be successful. Advise family members of the date and time of the family meeting so that all members are present. For starters, plan on about 60 minutes for the family meeting. If your family has four members, for example, each person will have about 15 minutes of air time to share what's going on in their world, what's right, what's wrong, what their needs are and how members can provide help and support.
- Only one person at a time speaks and shares what's on his / her mind.
- No interruptions when a family member is speaking.
- Listen carefully for points you might wish to clarify after the family member has spoken. (Take a notepad and pen to the family meeting, just as you would any other business meeting.)
- No passes allowed -- all members are expected to contribute as a valued member of the team, whether they're seven or 67.
- Honest, straightforward communication is encouraged -- that means no dancing around important family-related information or issues.
- Create an open, trusting and respectful environment where family members are comfortable in sharing.
- Refrain from non-verbal communication that is negative or inappropriate. (Rolling eyeballs, raised eyebrows and groans of boredom are not helpful.)
- You don't have to agree with what is being said...you just have to agree to listen.
- You cannot leave if you don't like what your team member is saying.
- Questions can be asked by any family member once the speaker has concluded his/her presentation.
- No yelling, no screaming allowed.
- Preserve confidentiality...what's said in your family meeting isn't fodder for Facebook.
- Communicate appreciation and thanks for attending the family meeting.
- Make closing remarks and announce date / time of the next family meeting.
Should you start holding family meetings, only you and your family can determine the ultimate value and benefit. In general, though, you may find that this family meeting strategy can:
- create an intentional venue for more open lines of communication within your family system, especially during periods of employment transition.
- build improved relationships among family members through a spirit of we're all on the same page vs. I have no clue what's going on with him / her.
- serve as a springboard for success in other areas of your life by learning how to communicate and contribute in constructive ways (even if you're put on the spot!) Think: hot seat / interviewing!
- foster an attitude of teamwork and cooperation to achieve goals and manage challenges.
- provide an opportunity to show one another that we're family and we're in this together.
- offer accountability -- you can help one another get what you want and need to succeed.
- bring you closer together instead of drive you farther apart.
- give you a chance to share when things are going right, not just when things are going wrong.
- forge positive working relationships, a skill that can last a lifetime, be it in the living room, classroom, conference room or interview room. Meetings are meetings.
- make you feel more connected to what matters most in today's world of constant change, challenge and choice.