Tensions in Family Farm Businesses
Posted: November 8, 2004
Family business and conflict go hand in hand. Some families can deal with the conflict in a healthy way and turn it into creative energy; other businesses struggle with silent or open conflict and watch as it wrecks the business in either the short or long term. Conflict among spouses can be especially damaging. Recent research by the University of Minnesota helps shed some light on conflict among farm business owning couples.
Husbands and wives were asked about business issues that generated tension in the family. They agreed on the amount of tension caused by role conflict (issues such as who does what and who has authority) and succession. However, significant differences exist among husbands and wives over issues such as unfair compensation and workloads, and especially regarding competition for resources between family and business. In each case, wives found these issues to be significantly more upsetting than husbands.
The spouses were asked to rank order ten family and business goals from most important to least important. Husbands’ top five, with most important first, were: profit, good family relationships, balance between work and family, long-term business viability, and secure future for younger family members. Wives’ top five were: good family relationships, profit, balance between work and family, growth of the business, and longer-term business viability. It’s interesting to note that the lists are more similar than different.
It’s important for every business, especially family ones, to discuss goals and make plans for the future of the business. Different family members often have different points of view about which business and family goals are most important and how they should be achieved.
Danes, S.M. and Yoon, G.L. (2004). Tensions generated by business issues in farm business-owning couples. Family Relations, 53, 357-366.
Richard Stup, Senior Extension Associate, Human Resource Specialist, Penn State Dairy Alliance