Family Feud

People teaming up by putting their hands in the middle of a table

Remember Sanford and Son? More like Family Feud!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Flashback to the ‘70s. Fred and Lamont were partners in their junk shop, but who did all the work? Most family businesses don’t last for two generations! What’s better for biz – treating fam like employees? Or treating employees like family?

Roland Kidwell and colleagues from Florida Atlantic University study a process called imprinting. Through imprinting, employees adopt work habits — good AND bad — and pass them on to coworkers. Kidwell’s team analyzed over one hundred research studies on big and small family businesses.

In some firms, family members believed they were treated worse than non-family employees. In others, parents favored their children over other workers. BOTH practices damaged company culture, lowering chances for business success!

Kidwell believes that to achieve fairness, family firms need transparent rules for compensating, promoting, and retaining employees. No playing favorites!

Turns out the trick is to be both a business AND a family. As boss baby would put it — cookies are for closers!

Reference: Kidwell, R. E., Eddleston, K. A., & Kellermanns, F. W. (2018). Learning bad habits across generations: How negative imprints affect human resource management in the family firm. Human Resource Management Review, 28(1), 5–17.