By Prof. Enrique Soriano
“Papa has no plans of giving up control. Whatever decisions I make, he always overturns them. It does not help that he changes his mind too often. He has the tendency to embarrass me in front of the executives and his friends. Why is doing this to me? I do not know what to do anymore!”
In the world of business, few partnerships are as complex and emotionally charged as that of a father and son in a family-run enterprise. At its best, such a partnership can be a harmonious blend of tradition and innovation, a bridge between generations. However, at its worst, it can turn into a crucible of conflict, tearing both the family and the business apart. In this article, we delve into the intriguing dynamics of father-son conflicts within family businesses, exploring their causes, consequences, and, most importantly, strategies for resolution.
Succession and Control Battles. The heart of many conflicts in family businesses is the issue of succession and control. Fathers often find it challenging to let go of the reins they’ve held for years, while sons are eager to prove their worth and make their mark. This struggle for power can manifest in clashing management styles and decision-making approaches. To mitigate this, clear succession plans and open discussions are essential.
Generational Perspectives. The generation gap between fathers and sons can be a breeding ground for conflict. While fathers may hold onto traditional values and methods, sons often bring fresh, innovative ideas to the table. These differences in perspective can lead to tensions and disagreements. Recognizing the value of both experience and innovation is crucial for harmony.
Communication Breakdown. Effective communication is the cornerstone of any successful relationship, and it’s no different in a family business. When roles, expectations, and responsibilities are not clearly defined, misunderstandings can fester. Poor communication can also erode trust, further straining the relationship. Regular, open dialogue is key to preventing such breakdowns.
Unequal Treatment and Favoritism. Perceived unequal treatment among family members involved in the business can breed resentment. Sons may feel slighted if they believe their father favors other siblings or relatives. This perception can be fueled by differences in rewards, responsibilities, or recognition. Fairness and transparency in family business dealings are essential for maintaining family cohesion.
Personal and Professional Boundaries. Striking the right balance between personal and professional life can be challenging in a family business. Personal conflicts, unresolved family issues, or emotional baggage from the past can spill over into the business realm, causing tension. Establishing clear boundaries and addressing personal issues separately can help maintain professionalism.
Financial Disagreements. Money matters are another flashpoint for family business disputes. Disagreements over financial decisions, such as investments, profit distribution, or salary disparities, can strain relationships. Differing financial goals and risk tolerances can also lead to conflicts over the direction and growth strategies of the business.
Lack of Defined Roles and Succession Plans. Ambiguity surrounding roles and succession planning can lead to confusion and conflicts. Both fathers and sons may have differing expectations about their positions within the business. To mitigate this, families should establish clear roles, responsibilities, and succession plans well in advance.
Mother siding with the son. It does not help when the mother ends up joining the tussle between father and son and naturally siding with her offspring (usually the first born). I see many instances where the father ends up frustrated and defensive having to deal with another “stressor” (wife) with a nauseated feeling of being ganged up by the entire family. Crucially, the father ends up hurt, alone and will stubbornly resist any attempts to change the current order. To assert his power and authority, he will end up displaying a fight or flight stance.
Father-son conflicts within family businesses are a complex web of emotions, tradition, and financial interests. Yet, they are not insurmountable. With open communication, mutual respect, and a commitment to the success of both the family and the business, these conflicts can be resolved. We will tackle the issues and solutions in the next article.
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