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  • Service: Enterprise, Family business
  • Type: Business and industry issue
  • Date: 2/20/2013

Dealing with conflict in the philanthropy planning process 

Dealing with conflict
Recently, we spoke about how to get the younger generation involved in the family’s charitable activities. We talked about how drawing them in required a carefully thought-out and well-implemented plan and how the older and younger generations might work together, given the differences which are a part and parcel of the generation gap.

Sometimes, disagreements are bound to arise, as different personalities try to have their say and make their mark – and when it comes to family conflict, passions can run high! That’s why it’s essential to develop a plan for managing disagreements…

Examine the family business management style

Many family businesses – particularly first generation family businesses – have an informal management style. While this approach may have suited the family business founder, as subsequent generations join the firm, changing dynamics may call for a more formal style.


With new family members involved in business and activities – including its philanthropic actions – now may be the time to revisit your management style, and bring in standardised policies and procedures, particularly those geared towards handling grievances and disputes.

Get a handle on family dynamics

People in the workplace can be demanding enough to manage – throw intense sibling rivalries, marital conflict, or parent-child issues into the mix and you’ve got an even more volatile environment.


When family politics and workplace politics collide, things can quickly become ungovernable. Understanding the dynamics between family members will help you better manage personalities and prevent friction and fallout.

Re-affirm the boundaries

In family businesses, it’s easy to blur the lines between business and family. Part of conflict resolution is recognising which conflicts have their origins in family issues and which in business issues (and this relates to grasping the family dynamics at play).


Be sure to establish firm boundaries between family and business and reiterate the importance of maintaining these boundaries – the most important thing being to separate emotional impulses related to family issues from clear and rational business thinking.

Don’t sweep issues under the carpet

It can be tempting to avoid conflict, just to keep the peace, but this is a short-sighted approach. If you want to prevent the issue escalating over time, better to address it head-on and get resolution.


The family assembly is a great platform for family members to talk out their issues and vent their feelings – family assembly is a formal forum where family members come together to discuss business and family issues and how one impacts on the other. If open discussion at family assembly brings no joy, you might want to consider bringing in an outside, impartial mediator known as a family business therapist. Much like a marriage counsellor, a family business therapist helps parties come to a workable arrangement – firstly by guiding them to acknowledge their emotions and then to transition the emotive arguments to a business discussion where sense can prevail.

Keep your eyes on the prize

With everyone vying for individual attention, it can be easy to lose sight of the end-goal. Help family members recognise that they’re part of a team and, whilst individual efforts are to be applauded – it’s hard for the family business or the family charity to achieve results without everyone rowing together in the same direction.


Check whether family members are on the same page with regards to what the family’s charitable activities are meant to achieve and have a frank discussion about whether the squabble is about the family charity’s ultimate aim or merely how to go about achieving it.


Help family members let go of their egos to focus in on the prize at the end of the line – this can help them reach a consensus to work together.

Christophe Bernard

Christophe Bernard
I am a KPMG partner based in the French firm’s Paris office, responsible for encouraging the growth of our firms’ middle markets practice across Europe, Middle East and Africa, a majority of that market comprises of family businesses.
 

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