Choosing Sides in a Family Business
Family businesses are rife with opportunities for clashes of ideas and personalities, so conflict isn’t unusual.
Sometimes family members get drawn in and asked to choose sides among the parties.
But “choose sides” is the wrong way to look at it, because there really aren’t any sides to choose!
Of course, the combatants will typically try to make it about “my side” versus “his side”.
But anyone else who looks at it that way is falling into a trap.
Taking sides is usually a false choice.
This is something that happens far too often, in many business families.
Family members who work together or manage assets together won’t always see things the same way, and trying to get others to come to their side of every argument is natural.
But that doesn’t mean the other family members need to oblige!
If you’ve read even a little bit about negotiation, you’ve likely heard about the difference between “positions” and “interests”.
Fisher and Ury’s book “Getting to Yes” was the first place I recall reading about this, and that was in the 1980’s, so this isn’t anything new.
If each side simply holds to their position, the negotiation will likely remain a zero-sum game, where any gain by one side is a loss for the other.
Sometimes in a negotiation, both sides really dig their heels in, usually because there’s some emotional aspect to the conflict that prevents them from letting go.
And yes, sometimes in family businesses people get into conflicts that are complicated by emotional issues.
In order to have a better chance at a successful resolution, you need to get past their “positions” (My way / I’m right) and get to their interests.
Then, when you can find the common interests that both sides have, there’s something to work with.
You need to get past “Who is Right” and work on “What is right”
Can the other family members avoid taking sides, and look for common interests instead?
I sure hope so!
That’s all for now, see you next time.