Family members that work together spend many days of the year dealing with business challenges, some of which have been particularly difficult since 2009. Then the holidays arrive and for some, the thought of spending Christmas together presents additional stress.
Here are a few suggestions that might help your family enjoy the holidays together:
Be mentally prepared. Holidays create stress and it often affects our behavior. We might be less patient, suffer from tension headaches, and react negatively to others. Prepare yourself to react positively to others. Pause before you respond to comments that might create conflict.
It’s likely that you know what triggers negative reactions and anger among family members, particularly if you work together in the business. Avoid those triggers.
Manage alcohol intake. One too many drinks might prompt an inappropriate comment or tone. If other family members are drinking in excess, it might be a good time to leave the party.
Use these family occasions to celebrate successes in the business. What happened in the last year that was positive for the business, shareholders, employees, and customers?
Spend time apart while visiting with family. While the primary objective is to enjoy time together, sometimes that is best accomplished by planning some time out (even for a drive) by yourself, or with your nuclear family.
Take advantage of an opportunity to visit community beneficiaries of family philanthropic initiatives.
Have some fun! Remember that in theory, this is one of your primary objectives. Take the time to relax and appreciate your family. They might even re-energize you for a better 2012!
Every year at this time, the beginning of the Holiday season brings both increased opportunity for quality family time, and increased risk that mixing family and business discussions will result in added family stress.
Our souls are nourished by connecting with those we love most, and are bodies can be rejuvenated by time away from the stress of work.
Still, many find that it is too easy to use the opportunity of family togetherness over the Holidays as a forum to hold business discussions. There is certainly efficiency in using time together in this manner, but is it worth the risk or the cost?
Holidays are meant to create enough space to honor the most sacred days of the year. They are a time to pull back from the mundane and reflect on the special, or even the miraculous.
The middle of a special dinner is not the time to raise an issue related to the business or enter into a potentially explosive family business discussion. Families have found that setting aside time for business discussions throughout the year is a healthy practice, but those times and forums are best kept separate from Holiday celebrations.
Protecting these sacred family times is worth the effort.
If the holidays weren’t enough to stir up trouble for family businesses here in the US, for the past couple weeks we have been in the midst of college football rivalries to add some fun conflict to the family business. Yes, I did say fun conflict, and yes, there is such a thing, and sports can deliver the goods. All over the country stretching from Southern California with the cross-town rivalries of USC and UCLA, to the South with Alabama and Auburn, to the Northeast with Harvard and Yale and culminating this weekend with Army vs. Navy in Philadelphia, it is rivalry season where brother roots against brother and family alliances and differences are celebrated!
Last Saturday here in Oregon the 114th Civil War game pitting the University of Oregon Ducks vs. The Oregon State University Beavers was played in Corvallis. The “number 1” Oregon Ducks went on to defeat the Beavers by a score of 37 − 20. Now the Ducks will play in the BCS championship game against Auburn on January 10th 2011 for the often-disputed title of college football champions. While the BCS debate is a whole other discussion for blogs and sports radio elsewhere, for family businesses, sports rivalries can be a nice distraction and an enjoyable way to deal with some healthy conflict. Here in Oregon, it was fun to watch families divided in their loyalties as a husband wore green and yellow (colors of the Ducks) and his wife wore black and orange (Beavers) and their sons and daughters divided in Oregon and Oregon State colors. Throughout the stadium the pattern repeated itself as families were divided in their allegiances, and some even went so far as to display the ultimate hybrid — the platypus — melding the Duck and Beaver fan who has ties to both schools.
Many family businesses in the weeks leading up to the Civil War used the event with their employees as a way to bring hilarity to the work place as various bets and challenges were issued based on their respective allegiances to either the Ducks or the Beavers. I can tell you on Monday morning there were plenty of Beaver family business owners driving to work wearing Duck gear, or having their car adorned with Duck colors or even worse dressed as the Duck mascot. For many around the state of Oregon yesterday was a very long day of humiliation and insults, but there is always next year – and it was all in good fun.
Regardless of the sport it is interesting to see how in some families the long tradition of supporting one team continues while in others the next generation breaks the tradition and roots for the biggest rival – just to shake things up a bit. Certainly many families use game day outings as a way to bond and socialize together for fun. With a few of my clients we have used their strong connections with a certain sports team as a motivator to not violate the ‘Code of Conduct’ or they will be required to make a contribution to their rivals’ athletic fund. We have had a great deal of fun with it, and I can tell you the shame of writing that check is a powerful motivator! A good question to ponder is: ‘How does your family use sports and rivalries as way to build bonds and connections with family and employees?’