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 President Emeritus Rodney Erickson Joins Smeal Executive MBA Students in Celebration 25 Jul Penn State President Emeritus Rodney Erickson Joins Smeal Executive MBA Students in Celebration

About 30 students celebrated their completion of the Penn State Smeal Executive MBA Program last month in a pre-commencement ceremony held at the Business Building on Penn State’s University Park campus, with former University president Rodney Erickson delivering the commencement speech.

Smeal's Multimedia Team Recognized for Providing Valuable Student Service 24 Jul

A group of Smeal College of Business staff members were recently recognized for their efforts to provide students with professional portraits for their LinkedIn profiles. The Penn State Information Technology Resource Responsibility award was granted to the Resource, Instruction, and Information Technology (RIIT) Group’s Multimedia Team.

Company Looks to Penn State Smeal for Next Generation Supply Chain Talent 23 Jul

The Penn State Smeal College of Business is one of only two schools from which Burlington Stores, a national off-price retailer headquartered in New Jersey, actively recruits for its Supply Chain Leader Development Program. This leadership program for supply chain graduates is an 18-month program that introduces new graduates to the various roles and responsibilities of leadership at the company.

Management and Organization's Gioia Reflects on GM Crisis 11 Jul

When GM began recalling vehicles in February because of an ignition-switch problem, the situation brought back early career memories for Denny Gioia. Currently, the Robert and Judith Klein Professor of Management and chair of the Department of Management and Organization at the Penn State Smeal College of Business, Gioia once worked as recall coordinator for Ford Motor Company.

Inaugural Executive MBA Leadership Forum Addresses Issues in Health Care 09 Jul

Early last month, the Penn State Smeal Executive MBA Program hosted its inaugural Senior Leadership Forum, an opportunity for current and prospective students as well as program alumni to come together to discuss business and leadership.

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