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Do principles of Management apply within the Family?

Updated: Jan 16

In our last article we discussed how people who are highly rated for their managerial skills at work, frequently fail to demonstrate the same success at home within their families. These individuals are unable or unwilling to address acrimonious issues between family members, leaving the interpersonal dynamics to play out by themselves with incohesive and dysfunctional outcomes eventually leading to breakdown in the family structure.

Now, let’s discuss what can people do if they find themselves in such situations.

Firstly, it is important to understand that some problems are complex and no matter what you do, the solutions and options may not unfold to everyone’s satisfaction. When that happens, the only option maybe containment. On the other hand, some issues are potential crisis in waiting. These need to be recognized for their volatility and while some may appear to find their own resolutions in dramatic and much needed change, most need to be put out like fires—in a swift, safe manner utilizing all viable options resulting in minimal damage.

There are three crucial points a manager with effective leadership skills, could reflect on when faced with a conflict situation be it at work or at the home front.

  • “What are my options?”

  • “What happens if I do nothing?”

  • “What happens if I do everything possible?”

All in all, it is imperative to assess the consequences of action versus inaction, in both, long and short terms.

Following are some key managerial points a person can focus on, when faced with a conflict/unpleasant situation at home:

1. Intervention (When is intervention necessary?)

Avoidance of issues is a common problem within families. Non-confrontational people tend to dissuade discussions towards active problem solving for fear of upsetting the proverbial apple cart.

2. Decision Making (What impedes this when faced with a family situation?)

Good decisions are both ethical and effective.

  • Ethical decisions generate and sustain trust; demonstrate mutual respect, responsibility, fairness and caring. These behaviours provide a foundation for making better decisions by setting the ground rules for the behaviour of all members of the family.

  • Effective decisions are effective if they accomplish what we want accomplished and if they advance our purposes. The key to making effective decisions is to think about choices in terms of their ability to accomplish our most important goals. This means we have to understand the difference between immediate and short-term goals and longer-range goals. In a family set up, the goals must be all inclusive covering the welfare and identity status of each involved family member.

Decision making needs objective and balanced approaches with least possible affective influences. However, in a family set up, decisions are frequently marred by loyalty factors and in maintaining hierarchical positions in the family which are perceived to be under threat.

3. Conflict Management

Taken in an informal set-up, it is the ability to initiate a problem-solving process aimed at settling differences in a fair and objective manner, at an early stage, with transparency, without retaliation, and as close as possible to the source of conflict.

All positive problem-solving measures are effective in some quarter, but most effective leaders will state that the best solution is to anticipate the problem and head it off before it actually happens. Managers who have a good instinct for rooting out situations before they fester into problems are also adept at looking at problems in one area and assessing that they could spread to other areas. A Systems thinking approach, as practiced in organizational learning, teaches us how to analyse the root cause of one problem and then think how that root cause or its consequences may affect another aspect of an organization. There is no reason why the same cannot function in a family since this has all the elements for a functioning System. However, it is essential that managers have an enhanced ability to separate themselves from problems which would help them in intellectually minimizing the complexity that may exist and make situations more manageable.

Herein lies the dichotomy of the modern day Indian social fabric. The world of work is fast moving towards the energy, innovation and creativity of the youth and the traditional way of life and work is under continuous pressure to give way to the new world. Where the pressures of accountability and achievement of increasingly challenging targets has inured the Indian work force to make a change and adapt to the new world, the old world is resistant and pervasive at the home front. More men and also some women struggle with the need to change the ways they communicate at home in stark contrast to how they come across to their colleagues and take decisions at work. The older generation being out of touch with the changing times, is clinging steadfastly to their way of life. Their entire identity is perceived by them to be in danger of collapse and the resultant stress is commonly felt by all generations within the family home. Intrafamily conflicts are the natural consequences of this stretch and individuals are finding it hard pressed to bring the same skill set which is demanded and delivered at work into their homes.


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