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Family Business Conflict

How we deal with conflict in family business is totally different to a regular workplace. Why? In family business, we wear multiple hats: family member, co-worker, owner, and those roles can lead to conflicts of interests. The work hierarchy is overlaid by the family hierarchy, and that can lead to … conflicts of interests. And unlike a regular workplace, it’s not quite so easy to just quit for another job. By their nature, families and their businesses are deeply interdependent systems.

Understanding these key differences helps us work out how better to manage those conflicts.

A lot of conflict mitigation revolves around the principle of establishing boundaries. That helps provide clarity over the various roles we play, so that we have spaces where we are co-workers, and other spaces where we are relatives. Of course, we can’t instantly switch from one identity to the other. However, having codes of conduct, sacred spaces, formal meetings, and independent advisors make it less difficult.

The hardest part is learning how to debate tough issues, and criticise. This requires well-considered communication so that the message gets across in as positive a way as possible, with minimum spill-over to other aspects of the relationship.

Consider This: What tools or policies does your family use to reduce conflict in the family business? Is there a strong awareness of them? How often do you break your own rules or codes of conduct?

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