Working with one’s spouse requires some unique considerations. Perhaps the thought contained in this post is true in other partnerships, but given that spouses work, and live, together, being extra sensitive to each other is critical. What I am writing about here is when you have an idea or suggestion to give your spouse/partner about how to do something or a better way of doing something, it is important to do so tactfully or thoughtfully. For example, make these suggestions privately, not in front of employees. And, consider the timing of such things as well. Busy people are often focused on the work they are doing at the moment which means that some times are better than others for making suggestions. Partners who are relative equals in a business may benefit from suggestions, but blurting out the ideas, which may not be fully thought out, in front of employees, at a stressful moment, will harm this working relationship. Instead, conflict is created. And worse, if it is a good idea, the chance that it is adopted is lessened. Better to find a good time, and spell out the thoughts in detail, if you really want to make a suggestion.
When one’s business partner is one’s spouse and thus, life partner, there are many overlaps in work and personal roles. My spouse/partner has realized for decades that I am not the easiest person to live or work with; the level of tactfulness he has to employ when dealing with me is well beyond what most people would tolerate! I am open to new ideas, and consideration of approaches different than the one I was taking, but only if these suggestions are made at the right time and in the right way. For example, when I am concentrating on writing a client’s report following a jury research project or preparing a client’s voir dire questions for an upcoming jury selection, I always close my office door (and place on the doorknob a cute little sign that says, “GO AWAY” in embroidery), activate the “do not disturb” feature on my office phone, turn off my cell phone, and sometimes, if outside noise is unbearable, wear noise cancelling headphones. My job requires extreme concentration and zero distractions, therefore, if anyone, including my spouse/business partner, decides it is just the right time to bother me with drivel or trifle at a time when I am concentrating, whatever it is will be guaranteed not to be well received, even if it is the best idea since sliced bread. Knowing one’s spouse/ business partner and knowing when to say what needs to be said is a recipe for success in any long term partnership, both personal and business.