Family business conflicts can be the reason for lack of success, lack of growth and the tempo that ideas move forward. Webster’s Dictionary (1983) defines conflict as sharp disagreement or opposition of interests or ideas. In other words, what I want does not match what you want. When conflict occurs in the workplace, it can reduce morale, lower work productivity, increase absenteeism, and cause large-scale confrontations that can lead to serious and violent crimes.Conflict is a challenge facing both employers and associates. Conflict in a family business can be devastating, demoralizing and destructive.
The Wharton Global Family Alliance is a unique partnership between the Wharton School and leading families from around the world. The Wharton GFA develops in-depth academic research which is motivated by the core issues that families and their businesses face. Recently, they published a study on conflicts and outcomes in family businesses. The study had 68% of the family businesses with two generations in the business. 77% of the family businesses had revenues less than 500 million and the largest group had been in business ten years.
According to psychologists Art Bell and Brett Hart, there are eight common causes of conflict in the workplace. Bell and Hart identified these common causes in separate articles on workplace conflict in 2000 and 2002. The eight causes are: Conflicting resources, Conflicting styles, Conflicting perceptions, Conflicting goals, Conflicting pressures, Conflicting roles, Different personal values, Unpredictable policies.
Some simple ideas to consider avoiding family business family conflicts include create some ground rules. A few ideas to contemplate include some geographic, physical location rules. Don’t talk business at the dinner table. Remember the Godfather?
Connie:”Papa never talked about business in front of the kids.”
Sonny: “We don’t discuss business at the table.”Separate the roles so you don’t get into family behavior when you’re talking about business. You have business discussions and personal life, and never the twain shall meet. That’s really hard to do, but it’s also vital. A real life example of this separation involved a family business I worked with in New Jersey. The team at the meeting included the vice president of operations and an accountant manager, at the end of the meeting their Vice President stated Mrs. Weir our president would like to meet with you. A few weeks later I meet with Mrs. Weir, we had lunch. It was almost 2 years of interactive business before I learned Mrs. Weir was the Vice Presidents’ mother; married names aside, create some relationship space.
Sometimes bad things and bad luck pile up. Sometimes in Family Business it seems like one thing goes wrong and then another, it seems as if we’re in quicksand. Family business despite conflicts to have advantages; you are working with people you know and trust who care about the same things you do. You share the problems. You share the rewards. The rewards and the conflicts can accumulate by a magnitude.
Don’t ever stop learning, listening and sharing.