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
Smeal Again Ranks No. 1 for Graduate Supply Chain Education 19 Sep

The Penn State Smeal College of Business once again ranks No. 1 in graduate supply chain education according to a report from IT research and advisory firm Gartner, which also ranked the college best for undergraduate supply chain education in August.

Ding Co-Authors Book on Modern China 18 Sep

The Chinese Way, a newly released book from Penn State Smeal College of Business Professor of Marketing and Innovation Min Ding and Jie Xu of Fudan University, explores modern-day Chinese culture from multiple angles, providing a deeper understanding of a complex society that is critically important to business in a globalized world.

Nicholson Helps Dairy Farmers Mitigate Financial Risks 17 Sep

Charles Nicholson, clinical associate professor of supply chain management at the Penn State Smeal College of Business, is contributing to the introduction of the Margin Protection Program for Dairy Producers (MPP), a government-sponsored insurance initiative to help the nation’s dairy farmers mitigate their financial risks.

Client Projects Sought for Penn State Smeal MBA Program's Applied Professional Experience 17 Sep

The Penn State Smeal College of Business is currently seeking projects for the spring 2015 Applied Professional Experience (APEX) Program. APEX, the capstone component of Smeal’s internationally ranked MBA program, runs from early January through April and consists of student teams collaborating with client firms to take on real-world business challenges.

Crocker Named Department Chair in Risk Management 16 Sep

Keith Crocker, the William Elliott Chaired Professor of Insurance and Risk Management, has been named chair of the Department of Risk Management in the Penn State Smeal College of Business.

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