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Why Calling Your Team a 'Family' is a Recipe for Disaster

Creating effective teams within an organisation is essential for achieving success and reaching goals. However, it is not uncommon for founders and leaders to describe their startups as "families" rather than teams. While the term "family" may seem like a positive and inclusive term, it can actually be detrimental to the success of the organisation.

The concept of a "family" is often associated with emotions and personal connections, rather than a shared goal or purpose. In contrast, a team is defined as "a group of people with a full set of complementary skills required to complete a task, job, or project" (International Journal of Business and Social Science). The dynamics of a team are based on a shared vision and a common goal, rather than personal connections. This is crucial for the success of any organisation as it ensures that everyone is working towards the same objective and there is a clear sense of accountability.

Furthermore, referring to a startup as a "family" can create a false sense of unity and lead to complacency among team members. According to a study by the Harvard Business Review, "the term 'family' implies a sense of loyalty that is not based on performance" which can create a lack of accountability among team members. In a sports team, players are selected based on their ability to contribute to the team's success, and it should be the same in a business setting. A study by Forbes found that "teams that held their members accountable for their actions and results, had a clear vision and set of goals, and had a sense of shared ownership, were more successful than those that did not".

Moreover, describing an organisation as a "family" can also create an unhealthy work culture and foster a lack of diversity within the team. This can lead to groupthink, where team members are reluctant to express dissenting opinions and ideas, which in turn can limit the creativity and innovation of the organisation. According to a report by Forbes, "diverse teams are more likely to generate creative and innovative ideas than homogenous teams." A study by McKinsey states that "companies in the top quartile for ethnic and racial diversity are 35% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians."

In conclusion, it is important for organisations to create effective teams that are based on shared goals and objectives, rather than personal connections. Referring to a startup as a "family" can create a false sense of unity and lead to complacency among team members, a lack of accountability, and limit diversity and creativity within the organisation. Business leaders should strive to create teams that are diverse, accountable, and focused on achieving their goals, much like a sports team. This will lead to a more positive, productive, and profitable work environment for all.


  • International Journal of Business and Social Science. "Teamwork: What it means and why it matters."

  • Harvard Business Review. "Why 'Startup Family' Can Be Dangerous for Your Business."

  • Forbes. "Why the best teams are like sports teams."

  • McKinsey & Company. "Diversity matters."

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