All In The Family

The political pages are full of talk of sibling rivalry, inter-family conflict and the psychological damage that family members can do to each other in work situations. Ed winning the Labour Party leadership over his older brother David looked unlikely back in the spring, but it’s a reality now.


The big decision the brothers’ face now is whether David will stay on as a cabinet member and support his brother using his experience, influence and intellect on his behalf, or step back from the shadow cabinet to defuse any speculation about conflict and set about developing a new career of his own away from that particular limelight.

Thousands of miles away Kim Jong-il has just appointed his son Kim Jong-un as a general, a move that’s probably designed to signpost a transfer of power. There are other disappointed (and possibly embittered) sons, sisters and brothers-in-law in the background, but without a free press we won’t see hundreds of pictures of them and be invited to interpret their facial expressions.

When family members work together there’s plenty more going on psychologically than in ordinary working relationships. The emotions in play can be far more intense and the stakes are different.One family member who maybe doesn’t work as hard as others is no big deal in a family who have different professions in different organisations, there may be some grumblings about a lazy kid sister but it has no major impact on the day to day lives of all the family members. If one sister is focused on amassing a fortune ready for an early retirement to a Florida villa, whilst another is busy creating a nice nest egg to help her children gain a good education and get on the housing ladder, and a brother is busy spending everything he earns (and a little more) to enjoy the life he has right now then there may be a few snide remarks at Christmas, but they’ll likely get along fine.

When those different objectives exist within a family business, and family members have varying visions of where that business is going and what the key objective is, then emotions tend to run high and the resultant conflict is just as likely to be destructive as positive.

Predaptive has worked with a wide range of family businesses over the last decade, helping them to be clear about the business goals and work more effectively together as a committed team as well as a functional family.