Do business owning families give adequate thanks?

Chris Eckrich
Chris Eckrich

Thanksgiving Day here in the States is this Thursday.  It is a time where we celebrate and give thanks for all of the good things we have in our lives.

Interestingly, in my early work with business owning families, field research revealed that families who work together are often uncomfortable sharing compliments or statements of appreciation with each other.  Further, a measure designed to reveal comfort with making statements of various types clearly showed a preference for both making and receiving critical statements over making or receiving statements of affirmation.  Though not a formal research project, the results appeared to suggest that family members working together would rather give or receive critical statements than give or receive complimentary statements from fellow family members.

This makes some sense, as high standards pursued by many families in their businesses creates an intense focus on continuous improvement for both the enterprise and the individuals who work in it.  We celebrate excellence by identifying shortcomings and striving to be better.  The downside of this pattern, however, emerges when individuals in the family receive so much negative input relative to positive input that they become resentful or discouraged in their interactions with family.  This creates a negative cycle and thwarts both effective communication and psychological satisfaction among family business members. 

This Thanksgiving is a time to reflect not only on what we are thankful for personally, but to let those closest to us know the specific ways we are thankful for them and their place in our lives.


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