Matt’s having problems with his boss, and it’s gotten so bad he’s considering quitting his job and looking elsewhere. He’d been put in charge of a new division, but it’s foundering, and he feels that he’s getting blamed unfairly for its failure. He sees the business suffering because of high overhead, partly because his boss keeps too many older people on the payroll. He’d hoped to stick it out and move up in the organization – but his boss hasn’t said anything definitive about his future, and Matt feels like the old guy’s always questioning his decisions and undermining what authority he does have. He’s pretty sure he could make more money elsewhere, and advance his career more quickly too.

There’s just one thing stopping him. His boss is also his dad.

Dad isn’t feeling any better about things. He sees that Matt has worked hard, but nonetheless, his division is in trouble, and while it’s not entirely Matt’s fault, Dad wonders if the job is really right for his son. Maybe moving on would save their father/son relationship, which he fears is on the ropes, due to the pressures of their business relationship.

How should Matt and his dad handle it?

1. There must be a process to objectively review the performance of Matt as general manager of the new division. Ideally, this will include candid feedback from Matt’s supervisor (hopefully someone other than a family member), anonymous feedback from people who report to Matt, as well as an evaluation by Matt himself. This is critical for Matt’s growth and skill development.
2. Top managers should conduct a business “post mortem” to assess what went right and what went wrong with the new division. This allows everyone a chance to learn from past problems so that, hopefully, they won’t be repeated. The process should concentrate on a probe for “causes” and avoid the temptation to “fix blame.”
3. Matt’s compensation goals and the company’s plans need to be in synch. Discussions between Matt and Dad are a must and a formula should be developed that recognizes fair market value of the job performed with an adjustment up or down based on Matt’s skill and quality of performance.
4. Dad and Matt can examine their relationship in more depth. On what do they agree? On what do they disagree? In what ways might the business tensions have played themselves out between them? Are there family issues that are playing themselves out in the business setting?
5. Dad should think through his plans for the future of the business ownership and leadership, giving priority to meeting his needs first. Meanwhile, Matt needs to stifle some of what can appear as a sense of “entitlement.”
6. Matt should consider outside opportunities. If he finds a good fit, it might be the best for both his immediate family and the family business, where the door can, perhaps, be left open for the return of a more mature and seasoned professional.

Sticking with it isn’t always the right choice for a family business. Sometimes the greatest gift a parent can give a child is permission to let go.



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