Many business owners think their particular family business conflict is unique. Usually, it’s not. Conflict is particularly rife in family businesses.
Handling The Conflict
Dealing with any kind of conflict in your business is tough. It takes your mind off the game. All you want is to get the issue handled and get back to work. But if the conflict involves your family members it can turn into a hot-headed argument in no time.
Not only do you have to deal with the problem itself, you have to deal with the family dynamics. This is often dangerous ground and something most of us try to avoid like the plague.
How are you going to solve the first problem without causing a serious uproar in the family?
If it continues it will get worse and even nastier. No matter which way you go family members will be crying “not fair”. They’re all sure their way is the right way and quick to point out where everyone else is wrong. It can threaten productivity and undermine authority. Not to mention be destructive to your business and your family.
Resolving The Conflict
The best way is to solve these conflicts as they arise. Do it in an unemotional and detached manner. This will avoid a hot-headed riot and ongoing animosity and resentment. This may seem easier said than done and sometimes it’s impossible to sort this out yourself.
If you’ve got to this point and don’t know how to get any further, you could consider asking an outsider to help. Someone who is not involved can then deal with all the hard questions and volatile issues. It’s a smart decision when it comes to handling family conflicts in your business. Make sure you choose someone who knows and understands your business. They must be well versed in the dynamics of a family business.
Murray started his own construction business some 40 years ago. He worked long and hard to build the business to where it is today. The operation is successful and profitable. Murray’s getting older but still wants to maintain control of his business and the running of it. His family business conflict goes like this:
His son, Steve, is now working in the business with Murray. It’s assumed Steve will take over the business when Murray retires. Steve’s not interested in learning about running a business of this size. But he is interested in all the benefits that come out of the business (financial, flexible time schedule etc.). Not only this, Steve’s attitude and work ethics often fall well short of the mark.
Steve’s wife, Jan, also works in the business. She wants everything her way. This includes controlling the finances and even, it seems, her husband.
Murray wanted to engage a specialist to work for him in the business. Jan didn’t agree with Murray. She said there wasn’t enough money to engage this specialist, so it didn’t happen. Steve went along with Jan. A few weeks later Jan seemed to find enough money to make other business purchases. These were purchases she agreed with of course.
You might wonder how Murray could let this situation happen. Wasn’t he the business owner after all?
This is one of the many such scenarios we come across as specialists in family businesses. (We’ve changed names and details to protect client confidentiality).