Understanding tensions and conflict: A phases of learning approach for leading family businesses

Ken Moores, Mary Barrett

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterResearchpeer-review


Tension is a part of life and exists in some form in all family and work relationships.This is not new. In fact, Freud contended that tension and conflict between love and work creates the intensity of family and work relationships. He further suggested that love and work (lichen and arbeiten) are the main sources of self-esteem and pleasure in life and only when both are balanced do we achieve satisfaction (Carlock and Ward,2001). While all families experience degrees of tension, conflict and relationship problems as the individual and family move through their respective life cycles, there is likelihood that these are intensified for families in business because they work so closely with the ones they love. For example Kets de Vries (1996) concluded:

In normal circumstances, siblings eventually separate and choose their own course in life. With time and geographical distance, residual childhood irritants and resentments are less likely to flare up; vindictive triumph becomes less of a burning passion. Joining the family firm, however, makes this resolution more difficult. Continuing closeness aggravate the situation, while the presence of the parents in the business may rub additional salt in never healed wounds. Old feelings of envy and jealousy cannot be put to rest because all the actors in the play are still present. The family members may end up in a vicious circle of endlessly repeating conflicts - a continuation of the old emotional 'games’ of childhood. 
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationManaging the family business
EditorsL Glassop, D Waddell
Place of PublicationHeidelberg
PublisherHeidelberg Press
Number of pages19
ISBN (Print)192088906X
Publication statusPublished - 2005


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