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You Asked: My Sister-in-Law Is Competitive With Me

Dear Sugar,

I have a sister-in-law who I've been having a hard time dealing with lately. We used to be a lot closer, but over the past two years we have grown apart. My husband's family decided to buy two hair salons, one of which my sister-in-law was employed at. And it just so happens that I'm in the business as well, so we've been working together, too. Ever since then she has tried to compete with me. We are both managers and though we do have some differing views on managing the salons, our priorities for the most part are the same.

Recently I left a note for one of the employees to make sure she properly handled her clean-up and I got a nasty response back. Instead of defending me or helping me deal with it, my sister-in-law just laughed about it. It's obvious she doesn't value me as her partner, and I don't know how to deal with it. What can I do to make this situation better?

— Sister-in-Law Stress Sadie

To see DearSugar's answer,


Dear Sister-in-Law Stress Sadie,

Dealing with competition in the workplace is very common, and accompanied by the fact that you're working with your sister-in-law in a family business, it's not too surprising that you've encountered some issues. Like any sort of conflict, if you don't deal with it, it'll only get worse. It's clear that you need to talk to you sister-in-law about the situation. Try to keep it moderately professional; however, I do think it's OK to bring up that fact that you're sad you've grown apart.

As with any conversation, avoid attacking her and instead, describe how you're feeling. Ask for her opinion as well; I wouldn't be surprised if she has an entirely different point of view. If you can't work through your personal issues, then you both need to come up with a solution to make your professional environment more manageable. If your attempt at a resolution falls flat and things only get worse, you may want to look into other managerial jobs, outside of the family, since I would guess that she's not going anywhere.


Join The Conversation
JaimeLeah526 JaimeLeah526 8 years
The two of you should set up a system that works for both of you how to run your salons. That is what two professional women would do. Let her know that work stuff stays at work and you two are SILs first and outside the salon and coworkers inside. Maybe you could manage one salon and she could manage the other. Since I'm in the business too I know that sanitation is a huge issue and you need to make sure that your establishment is clean and if she can't respect that you need to do something before you lose your lisence, spread infection or get closed down, it's not something to mess around with. This is just like if you room with you BFF. If you are together all the time you're going to notice the other person's annoying habits and she'll notice yours. It's hard to deal with.
thelorax thelorax 8 years
Oooh that's rough. I have a somewhat competitive sister-in-law too and I can imagine how hard it would be to be in business with family, ESPECIALLY in-laws, no matter how much you love them! However you approach this, do it like a sister - be direct but be gentle and try to see where she's coming from too. I wouldn't make TOO big a deal of it at first either, because it's entirely possible that she's doing all of this subconsciously, maybe she's insecure or maybe that's just her personality. Good luck!!
ilanac13 ilanac13 8 years
you have an interesting dynamic there - it's not just family but it's a SIL. when it's a real sister, sometimes you have the option to say more than you would when it's an in-law - but i hope that you're able to have a candid conversation with her. it's never good for you guys or your employees for there to be tension or to have your choices not supported - and in this case it doesn't seem like she's really respecting what you're trying to do. i would try sitting down and having a conversation with her and be calm and patient to understand why she feels the way that she does. hopefully in having a mature conversation you'll be able to get to a place where you can support one another's decisions in managing the staff and things can get back on line. maybe since you work together so much, you're not connecting on the same level that you used to - so maybe by setting aside time outside the salons to hang out and do things will get you back on track. good luck and i hope that it all works out.
K-is-For-Kait K-is-For-Kait 8 years
Yeah, you need to really sit down and have a talk, even if it means showing a little vulnerability. Talk to her about the competitive tension you feel and how it makes you uncomfortable. Also, tell her you need her on your side when dealing with the employees.
g1amourpuss g1amourpuss 8 years
She wants a reaction from you. If you ignore her it will probably get to her. You are above her and her childishness, anyway, right?
Miss-Metal Miss-Metal 8 years
Yeah you really do need to just talk to her.
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