Dispute Management

Healthy Family Outcomes

Published: 2005 07 21 | Views: 2296

The very nature of business often seems to contradict the nature of the family.  Families tend to be emotional; businesses are objective.  Families are protective of their members; business much less so.  Families grant acceptance unconditionally.  Businesses grant it according to one’s contribution.  These and other conflicts can generate a good deal of ambiguity and stress for family members. 

The process of resolving these conflicts must be established long before the children arrive in the business.  It must begin in the home; in the lessons the children are taught, in the way the family conducts itself.  It continues with the philosophies that govern the children’s entry into the business and their preparation for leadership roles.  It expands with proper management of siblings’ relationships and of the way in which power is shifted from one generation to the next.  Families find that considering these challenges ahead of time increases the chances of solving them to everyone’s satisfaction. Their solutions generally rest on the fundamental beliefs that the family and the business can learn to work well together as a unit and the family’s contribution will strengthen the business enterprise instead of weaken it. (Ward, 1987,55),

First I believe that every family business needs to take account of more issues than ever before.  In particular, everyone needs to be more aware of one another’s feelings,  goals, and desires.  You can’t assume anything.  You need to be aware not just how things are going today, but of potential difficulties you may face tomorrow.

Second, I believe communication about differences is better than avoidance or ignorance.  The family has to talk about things, especially in times of generational transition, and there usually has be a lot of talk. You have to share more than just your positions on specific conflict areas.  Struggle and give and take come with the territory.  People in families who work together have to let each other know about their values, about their personal goals, and about how they see the business and their future.  When they come upon differences, they have to be committed to each other to stick with the conflict until a resolution is reached.  The relationships are important enough for everyone involved to be committed to achieving resolution.

A third assumption is that every family member must take responsibility for making the situation better.  You cannot opt out of major family decisions, or withdraw and say that you are not going to be involved.  There are no victims in families.  Every person can make the family and the business a better place to live and to work. Conflict needs to be faced openly and that differences between family members even of different generations and statuses, can and must be resolved, or they will poison the future.  (Jaffe, 1990)

Hallmark features of healthy families include those that…

1.  Share power
2.  Are open
3.  Offer support
4.  Communicate Effectively (and constantly)
5.  Validate others feelings
6.  Mediate Sibling Rivalries
7.  Build Self Esteem (yours and others)
8.  Deal with Crises openly
9.  Tolerate, acknowledge and honor differences
10.  Promote Spirituality

Healthy Families do this by…

Resolving Conflicts
Making decisions by consensus
Functioning smoothly under the standards of teamwork and loyalty
Enabling overriding goals set by leaders to shape their use of time and financial resources.
Committing to a group ideal
Working well when members assume individual responsibility and offer one another mutual support.
Following leaders and figures of authority that set the tone for the entire group.
Learning to abide by rules of the group, and adapting smoothly to change.


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