The Destructive Power of Fake Harmony

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If your family is so afraid of conflict that you avoid discussing real issues, you are likely damaging both your business and your family.

 

Many families we work with are so afraid of conflict that they settle, instead, for what we call “fake harmony”. Banyan partner Nick Di Loreto and principal Alison Isaacson have a conversation about their experiences in working with family businesses. They share a commonality among most families which is this idea of fake harmony. Di Loreto and Isaacson talk through what fake harmony is, why it is so prevalent, and how it has manifested in the families they work with at Banyan.

Key Takeaways:

  • The media and entertainment love to portray family businesses as hotbeds of conflict. But that’s not how most family businesses actually operate. Families are often so uncomfortable with conflict that they bury their feelings and never talk about real challenges or differences of opinions.
  • Oftentimes, projecting the image of “one big, happy family” both internally and externally is so important that they avoid all disagreements in fear of their image being affected.
  • Even when a family operates in a fake harmony, conflict will eventually bubble over, and create a “cliff event” that is far more impactful to the family and the business than any single conflict that has been ignored or pushed away to that point.
  • How to get to real issues? One tactic is sending out an anonymous survey to ask owners to surface issues. This can be a great way to gather a variety of insights that might otherwise not be shared for fear of causing a disagreement. This allows a family to see where they are as a whole, without anyone feeling singled out for having a differing opinion.
  • Try using a “candid-o-meter” during discussions to encourage everyone to share how they truly feel. It might sound silly, but it can help keep the discussion candid.
  • Normalizing healthy conflict in families is extremely important. Real families have conflict. And that’s ok as long as there are ways to acknowledge and work through real issues.

Time Stamps:

[0:28] Why do families settle in to a fake harmony and how can it negatively affect the business?

[1:37] Avoiding conflict doesn’t last forever. Eventually, there will be a “cliff event” where the conflicts become too much and they explode into a much worse situation than any individual event likely would have caused.

[3:23] What kinds of things can you do to get the constructive conversation around disagreements and contentious issues flowing?

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