Spotlight On: Family Business Conflict

A Guide to Navigating Conflict in Your Family Business

Finding the Goldilocks Zone of Conflict

For many families, the fear of conflict is so pervasive they go to extraordinary lengths to avoid it. But fake harmony doesn’t solve problems. In fact, too little conflict can lead to the same destructive outcomes as too much. Conflict is a Goldilocks problem. And it doesn’t have to tear your family apart.

The Conflict Spiral: How Conflict Escalates

Major fights in family businesses often follow a pattern, which we call the conflict spiral. Conflict has a gravitational pull. What starts as a simple disagreement can slowly spiral into an all-out war. Here’s how to recognize where you are in the spiral – and find a more constructive approach instead.

Dealing with a Family Crisis

A family crisis can bring out the best, or worst, in people. There is a difficult, but possible, path out of the conflict spiral. Instead, you’ll have to address a series of issues, with all options on the table. Here’s how to get the business family back on track.

Strategies to Avoid a Family Feud

Even better than knowing how to exit a battle that is spiraling downward is knowing how to avoid it in the first place. Find ways to address issues before they arise with discussions and policies — and recognize the signs that your conflict is escalating so it doesn’t get out of control.

Conflict Thought Leaders

Josh Baron

Vlad Barbieri

Partner

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Conflict is always present in family business owners’ relationships, even if it is not “visible”. Acknowledging and accepting that that is the case is one of the first steps on learning how to manage the conflicts.

Josh Baron

Josh Baron

Partner

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Families are often programmed from birth to avoid conflict in the name of preserving family relationships, holidays, etc. Unfortunately, in most cases doing that pushes issues of real important under the rug. Rather than trying to avoid conflict, focus instead on how to manage it. When you do, your family and your business will be far healthier in the long run.

Josh Baron

Fernanda Brasil

Principal

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Most of the time, conflict is not about who is right, it is more about what is better for each person. It’s about conflicting perceptions. Investing your time trying to convince the other person that you are right and they are wrong is, most of the time, useless. Listening to what’s important to the other side and discussing possibilities of how to address it is halfway to building an agreeable solution.

Josh Baron

Nick Di Loreto

Partner

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Conflict, by definition, increases as families grow and their interests diverge. The most successful family business owners are those who know how to raise and harness, rather than suppress, their differences.

Devin Bird

Alison Isaacson

Principal

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Conflict is natural in a business family. If you are experiencing “fake harmony”, push yourself to have the difficult conversations in a constructive way today. Don’t wait for long-simmering tensions to eventually erupt.

Rob Lachenauer

Rob Lachenauer

Managing Partner

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Well-managed conflict is an essential ingredient for family businesses success. Avoid harmful conflict and fake harmony. Look to build a psychologically safe, but uncomfortable, place to make tough decisions.

Aline Porto

Aline Porto

Partner

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Dealing with conflict is not about winning an argument, or proving who is smarter. It’s about reaching real understanding. Be curious. Listen and ask questions. Be clear about your path to your conclusions. It’s not easy to get it right at first… but it is impossible to do it if you don’t even try.

Marion Hampton

Omar Romman

Partner

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Conflict is natural in family businesses, and often comes from family members having different perspectives.We find that when you foster an environment where individuals can hear and be heard, they generally find common ground and are able to mitigate the type of conflict that can be hurtful or make it hard to come to agreement.

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