Conflict in the family business is inevitable.
There’s no denying that fact.
However, how you handle this conflict is key to squashing beef and keeping it squashed for good.
I find that conflict arises more often when you live with your family too.
Business issues can continue long after the business has closed for the day. And that is not a healthy relationship if it’s causing constant conflict.
I mean, you’re almost with each other 24/7, there’s bound to be friction because you are probably sick of each other.
In this article I’m going to explain how to squash family conflict and keep it at a minimum.
You can’t completely stop family conflict, but you can definitely keep it to a minimum, something that’s more tolerable than hating each other every second of the day.
1. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
Oh did I say communicate enough?
Communication IS hands down the most important thing when it comes to stopping conflict.
Without communication, nothing is going to be done to fix the issue and you’re always going to be yelling at each other, which is definitely not how you solve conflict.
Know what you want and communicate your issues with the other party…in a more quiet and formal matter.
Below I talk about how you go about doing this.
2. Weekly Meetings
Conduct a family business meeting before you start work on a Monday. It can work wonders for keeping conflict to a minimum.
This meeting should be formal and may only take an hour. Every party has the right to speak their mind without judgement.
The key here is to not pass the blame and say Sherlee needs to stop doing this or that.
Instead change it to I don’t like when Sherlee does this and that. But be polite about it, have a toned down voice. This is NOT the time to shout to get your point across.
This gives Sherlee a chance to respond to why she does things a certain way and you can ask her to change it to your way, or ask for her to at least consider it via a trial.
This allows Sherlee to meet you halfway. Coming to a mutual agreement is the goal at these meetings, not trying to out-power the other person.
3. Leaders Need to Allow Freedom of Speech
I get it, some family leaders are stubborn and will not change anything because they’ve “always done it this way”.
Just because they’ve always done it that way, doesn’t mean it’s the right way!
These leaders need to understand that the family members are the next generation and that they will take over the business one day.
Leaders should be encouraging the younger generation to work hard and improve their skills and make them a better entrepreneur, not bringing them down and making them feel underappreciated at every chance they get.
Because not listening to small problems can turn into bigger problems later on, which is where all the big drama comes from.
Conflict doesn’t arise instantly, it’s usually built up overtime from smaller problems.
And this is what starts bad attitudes and drama in the workplace.
4. Separate Family and Business Time
Business chat will always come up in family time, there’s no stopping that. However, the key is to keep it to a minimum.
One way is to stop talking about the business one hour after you finish work.
For example; if you finish work at 5 pm, you can talk about business up until 6 pm and it stops there. If someone brings it up, remind them that there’s no talking about work after 6 pm.
Because constantly talking about work at the end of the day is where more conflict and issues can arise. Not talking about it stops it altogether. Wait for the Monday meeting to vent all your issues.
This is how you separate work and family time. It actually works wonders.
At my old job we use to catch up after work for a beer and someone would start talking about work and bring the mood down, well having this rule made it easier to have a good time.
5. Everyone Should Have Crystal Clear Roles & Responsibilities
Having your own role and responsibility will keep you to yourself and your own job.
You won’t need to talk to other coworkers because you already know what you’re supposed to do.
Of course if there’s a rush and someone needs help, then go in and help out if they really need it or ask for it.
But if you are too busy doing your own thing, tell them you’re tied up right now and will get to them as soon as you can.
If you help someone else when you’re already behind on your own work, you’re going to look like you can’t keep up.
So focus on your own roles and responsibilities, stay in your lane and there shouldn’t be any issues.
However, everyone needs to understand THEIR own roles and responsibilities too, not just you.
6. Bring In The Experts
If you follow the rules I’ve outlined above, solving family business conflict should work. Maybe not instantly, but overtime things will get easier.
The only time it won’t is if some of the parties refuse to participate, which can and does happen. This stops anything from changing altogether and drama will continue to happen in the workplace and at home.
Some family members just don’t want change because they believe they are in the right and they think they know everything.
Well this is the wrong mindset and needs to change.
It’s time to bring in the big guns.
Bringing in an expert mediator can listen to all sides of the story and move the conversation towards a final resolution.
They are trained in solving conflicts so this usually a last resort due to the costs involved.
The Boss Plays A Huge Role In Conflict
Most of the time the problem lies in the managers, or owner of the business.
They grew up with the business, they literally watched it and helped it mold into the thriving business it is today.
And they have a sense of pride because of it.
YOU weren’t there, YOU didn’t do any of that. The owner was the one that created this successful business.
This is a big problem because they usually don’t want to listen to any issues you have.
You feel under appreciated and undervalued even if you’re doing most of the groundwork.
This can be extremely difficult to fix and you will probably need a professional mediator to solve the issues.
But then again, these can be expensive. You are looking at $1000-$2000 dollars for an expert mediator.
But hey, at least it might change the most important things and steer the business in a more positive direction.
Favoritism is a big deal and will destroy family relationships.
This is more of a problem when you have outside employees who come in and feel you are giving your family better treatment, which will cause them to act out in anger if they get pushed hard enough.
Just because they are an “outsider”, they’re not treated as good as the others.
The ones who usually suffer from favoritism are outside employees and younger siblings.
The older siblings are the ones getting all the special treatment and promotions while the younger generation feel underappreciated.
It’s not the family leaders intentions, it’s just that they are trying to give more control to the elder child as they are the first to take over the business.
Another problem you need to watch out for is rivalry, usually with siblings, but can also occur among managers.
The managers want to outdo the other manager so they will always try to have the last say. Because anyone with the last say has the most power.
Brother-to-brother rivalry may also occur and it’s the absolute worst. They try to do everything they can to prove their worth so they can become owners one day.
And of course, rivalry can cause tension and may even destroy relationships.
Noticing this in the early stages can help solve future conflicts and stop any relationships being destroyed.
Do you remember rule number one?
Communication my friend, that is the key takeaway here.
Conflict can get squashed easily as long as you communicate it early enough.
When something bothers you, don’t let it go because it will go unnoticed and just continue to piss you off, and then you’ll eventually strike out of nowhere and cause drama.
Well these are my tips to squashing family business conflict and I hope you can solve yours before it’s too late.
Having a hard time solving family conflict? Talk to us in the comments below. I’m happy to help 🙂
PS: If you still feel like nothing’s going to change and you want to quit, here’s how to do it the right way.