You are here: Home / News Release Archives / 2013 / July / Research Examines Tactics for Balancing Work, Family in Family-Owned Business

Research Examines Tactics for Balancing Work, Family in Family-Owned Business

New research from Glen Kreiner, associate professor of management in the Penn State Smeal College of Business, and his colleagues examines how individuals who work in family businesses manage the boundaries between the domains of family and business — or, in other words, how they manage their dual family and business identities.
July 8, 2013

This article originally appeared in the Centre Daily Times on June 30, 2013.

Glen Kreiner
Glen Kreiner
New research from Glen Kreiner, associate professor of management in the Penn State Smeal College of Business, and his colleagues examines how individuals who work in family businesses manage the boundaries between the domains of family and business — or, in other words, how they manage their dual family and business identities.

Past research on family businesses suggested that strong boundaries should be erected between the two domains. But Kreiner and his colleagues approach the issue differently, emphasizing that family and business domains will always influence each other. Each person, then, negotiates his or her own boundaries to “integrate and segment themselves and others as they navigate the continuous interaction of family and business domains,” the researchers write.

“Family and business domains may come to dominate personal lives, making it difficult to determine where/when the family and/or business ends and the self begins.”

Through interviews with 44 individuals in four family businesses, Kreiner and his colleagues cataloged specific tactics used to negotiate domain boundaries. Researchers observed four categories of “identity work tactics,” or behaviors used to “create, present, and sustain identities,” through which interviewees managed their own boundaries between work and family.

Individual tactics

Managing encounters and evoking consideration — categories of individual identity work tactics — refer to behaviors that describe how individuals manage interactions relative to boundaries between family and business. These tactics are necessary, the researchers write, because “family and business domains may come to dominate personal lives, making it difficult to determine where/when the family and/or business ends and the self begins.”

Managing encounters refers to managing boundaries in person-to-person interactions. Some examples include using word choice to signal whether a conversation will be in the work or family domain or choosing not to identify one’s family association in the workplace.

Evoking consideration refers to behaviors reflecting awareness of others’ perceptions. These tactics have to do with family members in the business working to make non-family members feel appropriately integrated and/or segmented.

One example is of an employee recognizing that his or her status in the family can make a non-family member uncomfortable, especially in reporting relationships. One interviewee said, “I want to make it a nonissue for the non-family member because I want them to feel like there is an open, honest line of communication.”

Organizational tactics

Adapting management style and importing values — categories of organizational identity work tactics — relate to the structure and strategy of the organization itself.

“The boundary between family and business domains may require considerable attention so that the family influence on an organization’s identity can be managed,” write the researchers.

“The boundary between family and business domains may require considerable attention so that the family influence on an organization’s identity can be managed.”

Adapting management styles refers to the ways managers leverage benefits of the family domain while minimizing potential costs through varying degrees of integration and segmentation. One example is to segment through emphasizing boundaries, or acknowledging the incongruence of family social demands and work-related tasks. Integration tactics can include being open and trusting with non-family employees and including them in organizational operations.

One interviewee said, “We have pulled ... non-family members into our health insurance negotiations to get their feelings and to give them a perspective. ... This is a family owned company, but the employees are part of that company.”

Importing values refers to how managers implement family values that are congruent with business goals and purposes. One example is emphasizing work ethic through family members’ examples, thereby integrating family and business domains by infusing that value.

Kreiner’s paper, “Managing Boundaries Through Identity Work: The Role of the Individual and Organizational Identity Tactics,” is forthcoming in the Family Business Review. His co-authors include Joshua R. Knapp, of the University of Lethbridge, Brett R. Smith, of Miami University in Ohio, Chamu Sundaramurthy, of San Diego State University, and Sidney L. Barton, of the University of Cincinnati.

Recent News
Penn State Smeal team finishes second in inaugural Smeal MBA Sustainability Case Competition 18 Dec Penn State Smeal team finishes second in inaugural Smeal MBA Sustainability Case Competition

A team of MBA students from the Penn State Smeal College of Business finished second in the inaugural Smeal MBA Sustainability Case Competition, which the college recently hosted in its Business Building on the Penn State University Park campus.

Rost Named Fall 2014 Smeal Student Marshal 15 Dec Rost Named Fall 2014 Smeal Student Marshal

The Penn State Smeal College of Business has named Daniel Rost as the student marshal for fall 2014.

Final Five Teams to Vie for $17,500 in Smeal MBA Sustainability Case Competition 01 Dec

Five teams of MBA students from programs in the U.S. will compete Dec. 5 for $17,500 in prize money in the inaugural Penn State Smeal College of Business MBA Sustainability Case Competition.

Businessweek ranks Smeal MBA Program No. 2 in ROI 17 Nov

The Penn State Smeal MBA Program ranks No. 2 in return on investment according to the latest Bloomberg Businessweek rankings.

Smeal Names Four New Members to Its Board of Visitors 31 Oct

The Penn State Smeal College of Business has named four new members to its Board of Visitors. Joining the board are Jon Grosso, ’89, executive vice president and director of stores for Kohl’s Department Stores; Ron Morgan, ’93, co-founder of MorganFranklin Consulting; Stephen Reeves, ’81, executive vice president and chief financial officer of Enviva Holdings; and Salomon “Sal” Sredni, ’87, chief executive officer of TradeStation Group, Inc.

More Recent News... More Recent News...