Why Candidates See "Workplace Families" As A Red Flag 🚩

We are family 🎵 If you heard this in an interview, what would your reaction be?

You might envision having to work with that weird cousin who used to eat dirt in the garden for fun and even if they have grown out of that habit, it’s hardly desirable to have to put up with them in work as well as awkward family parties. 

It’s understandable what the organisation is trying to get at. They want a close-knit group of people who care about each other and have a good time at work. But the reality is, most candidates see this term as a red flag. With family, you do things for them you probably wouldn’t do for your colleagues. Your parents put a roof over your head and loved you regardless of those angsty teenage years. Sure, your sibling might irritate the living daylights out of you but you love them regardless. When they need a favour, you’ll probably go out of your way to help them out because they would do the same for you. 

Obligation and unconditional devotion are terms you can relate to family, but so is “dysfunctional”. Do you love your fam? Yes! Do you want to spend 40+ hours with them a week? No! (But Mum, if you’re reading this, I’m joking. Of course I do…🌚)

We spend a tonne of time with our colleagues and are bound to bond but the family approach can draw a lot of negativity. Are the employers the parents and the employees the children? Let’s take a look at some of the downsides to this comparison…

Blurred boundaries

Without clear boundaries at work, employees can grow resentful, stressed, angry and ultimately unhappy. Whether mental, physical, material or intellectual, the boundaries you have with family are most likely very different to those in the workplace. For example, one of the below requests is normal, the other not so much:

Real family: 

“Hey I know it’s super last minute but can you dogsit for me tonight if you’re free?”

Work “Family”:

“Hi. I know you’re at your cousin's wedding but I need those stats from the campaign last week. Can you send it over tonight?”

Unrealistic expectations

Unrealistic or unhealthy expectations in the workplace can look like this:

  • Over-demanding workload
  • Working beyond work hours regularly or when on holiday
  • Expected to meet unreasonable deadlines
  • Assuming an employee understands a task without sufficient communication
  • Even if you’re able to have a flexible/hybrid work schedule, still expecting everyone to be in the office every day. Using video software for recruitment or meetings when working from home adds a little flexibility which can go a long way for candidate or employee experience

Unhealthy expectations lead to low morale, and loss of self-confidence and can cause struggles to fully focus on one task at a time as so much work is coming in.


Imagine dealing with the above daily. It’s bound to turn into exhaustion eventually! If an employee is feeling burnt out they may be tired at work and therefore not as productive, or be easily irritated which can affect others in the workplace. It can even lead to more sick days or a high turnover of staff.

Just to be clear, if you do say this about your workplace, we don’t actually think you mean to do any of the above, but this is what potential candidates may think. There are other great ways to emphasise your company is caring, respectful, empathetic and somewhere to belong.

Why not be a tribe or a pack?! 🐺 It has the same sentiment and even if you don’t mean for your company to come across badly, using overused terms like “family” can make a candidate run the other way.

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