Tag Archives: Bullying

Results from Bully Surveys

Last month we launched our initial ‘quick survey’ of Family Business Advisor (FBA) readers and our own FBCG advisors to get some feedback from our audience about their experience with the article’s topic.  Last month’s FBA newsletter touched on the difficult topic of bullying.  While we did not get many answers – the responses are of interest.

1) Just over half of our readers felt family-owned businesses encounter MORE bullying than publicly-traded companies – YET when we asked our advisors what percentage of their family business clients struggled with bullying issues, about 35% said none and a further 25% said 20% or less of their clients had bullying issues of which they were aware.  This suggests that perhaps readers who have struggled with this challenge in their own business might have been more inclined to participate.

2) When asked to identify ‘who’ was the bully most often in a family-owned business, there was a wide range of specific responses (sibling, parent, child, etc.), but most answers fell in categories of family members who were involved in the business.  This response pattern was true of readers and of advisors.  Likewise, when asked who the victim was – both sets of respondents indicated family members were most often the victims in these situations.  These answers suggest that a lot of the bullying in family businesses is intra-family bullying, putting the additional emotional load of family connection (on top of the power issues that are often involved in these situations) into the toxic soup of bullying.

3) If we consider who is doing the bullying and who is the victim of bullying in family business, it is not surprising to read many comments from readers telling us that in their situation: ‘the bullying was not fully handled,’ ‘that person is now in charge,’ ‘the behavior is being enabled by other family members…’.  These are disconcerting comments and give us a sense of how toxic it can be when there is bullying in a family business.

We deeply appreciate everyone’s participation in these ‘mini-surveys’ (only 3 or 4 questions, very fast to complete) and hope readers gain some additional insights alongside us as we seek to hear from readers about their lived experienced with these complex topics.  We hope many folks will take a couple of minutes to answer the survey related to this months’ article – and as always, if you are interested in learning more about how the Family Business Consulting Group, Inc. may be a resource to you and your family, please do not hesitate to reach out.

Gratefully, the Family Business Advisor


Bullying in the Family Business: What Should You Do About It?

JoAnne Norton

Your sister-in-law works in your family’s business right alongside of you and for some reason thinks she can do both her job and your job better than you can. You begin dreading the day as you drive to work knowing she’s probably already at the office ready to pounce on you yet again, criticizing and correcting you, surprisingly sarcastic for someone you once got along with so well. More than anything, it is her condescending tone of voice that makes you leave your family’s business each day feeling demeaned and demoralized. How do you make this bad behavior stop?

The titles of the best-selling books on the market would have you believe it is just a matter of having a conversation—a crucial one, a fierce one, or a difficult one. While all of the authors have excellent ideas and wise advice, the key word in all of the titles is conversations. You cannot keep putting up with bad behavior hoping your sister-in-law will magically change over night because that strategy simply guarantees more of the same bad behavior. You need to talk.

Bullying is detrimental to relationships in the business and in the family. Worse yet, it can have a serious impact on the family for generations. Children and grandchildren who witness disrespectful and hurtful putdowns learn: A) exactly how to behave this way, and B) it is okay to treat each other poorly. That’s why when these disrespectful dealings are going on, it is the business of the family to have a conversation about it.

To begin with, it must be made clear that all family members are required to speak to each other respectfully. Talking rudely and putting someone down are completely unacceptable behaviors. Bullying is counter-productive in a family culture and should not be tolerated under any circumstances.

If a family member is feeling bullied, or if any family member witnesses bullying, it is time to have one of those conversations—a conversation that should take place with an objective outsider, maybe even a professional. The sooner the conversation is held, the less lasting damage will be done. But keep in mind that this is a critical conversation and one that should never be done by email or text. The preservation of your family is too precious not to be taken seriously.

For more information on how to deal with difficult issues, please join my colleague, Joe Schmieder, and me for our webinar on December 4 at 1:00PM EST when we’ll be talking about “The Ties That Bind: Facing Up to the Difficult, Sometimes Brutal, Family Business Issues.” For more information click here.