It's All Relative

Ah, the venerable family business. We hear over and over again how important to the fabric of our nation it is that it be "saved" -- that's one of the staples in political debates about the estate tax, for instance.

But sometimes the values of family members aren't exactly what politicians mean when they discuss family values. (Just ask Nicky and Paris Hilton.)

Working for a family-dominated business can be especially tough on outsiders, depending on how regularly they interact with the ruling clan. That's particularly true when the family's values aren't the same as your own. Here are three signs that it might be time to flee:

* In lieu of a raise or your own share of the company stock, the company's founder has offered to let you marry her son -- whom you've never met.

* Your unofficial job title has become "marital counselor," with the family patriarch turning to you for advice on his cheating wife. This can be even more stressful when you know that she's cheating with another member of management.

* You find yourself mediating a contract that references the time one of the sisters "privatized" the other's Barbie.

-- Mary Ellen Slayter