Family Business Conflict and Resolutions (Part 1): In Family Business, happy families may become a family feud!

Family Business Conflict and Resolutions (Part 1): In Family Business, happy families may become a family feud!

How does a family enterprise survive from one generation to the next, let alone become a dynasty? Those who remember the duelling between the Carringtons and the Colbys, in the 1980s TV show Dynasty, would have seen how disagreements and the struggle for power and money can escalate in a family feud and, in some cases, the end the dynasty forever. Learning how to deal with conflict is a key to family business survival

Let’s consider conflict, as to deal with it one must be capable of comprehending it, recognising its existence and dealing with its repercussions, whilst seeking to manage it positively for the endurance of the family enterprise.

Conflict exists across the totality of a family enterprise, encompassing the family members, (as individuals, siblings cousins etc.) the people married to the core family, those engaged as externals to assist the family across business, also includes discussions on investments or extends to dealings with numerous issues of the family and as advisers, service providers or suppliers and even customers.

Conflicts are abstract and intangible, so conflict in the family enterprise is often hidden behind disputes over simpler things.

The conflict can be passive or active, with the former hidden behind the façade of the family; where in fact there is a cauldron of emotion, hidden simmering discontent and historic wounds beneath that picture of harmony.

The existence of passive conflict needs recognition; it’s recognised by its symptoms of a family member’s retreat from relationships, tiptoeing around issues, looking the other way to the obvious, creation of a workaround solution or creation of a silo, themselves by acts of avoidance.

In reality, we need to recognise a further fundamental – just because we are members of a family enterprise sharing a lot in common, we do not have to like each other!

So, we need to deal with conflict within the family enterprise system. But before we can, we need to identify why and how it happens. We’ll explore this in our next blog.