Anger in the family business

FAB Editorial Team

In a family business, the success and longevity of the business depends on the fucntional and healthy bonds between the family members. When anger is part of a family's tradition, it carries forward to the future generations, too. The wider the spread, the more difficult the anger is to contain. Intergenerational conflict, sibling rivalry and succession issues lead to multitude of negative emotions, including anger. 

If expressed appropriately, anger can serve as a positive emotion. Smooth, positive interactions can give the family firm a strong strategic advantage, whereas emotional issues arising from negatively charged interactions can adversely affect the business performance. 

In the family business, boundaries between the family and the work domains often blur.  This overlap is likely to intensify the experience and expression of anger in the family firm. The closer and more intimate the relationships, higher are the chances of conflict.  Unlike a non-family workplace, where employees are expected to display more professionalism and emotional neutrality, family co-workers are bound to express anger more openly due to the lack of boundaries.  

Positive effect of anger 

In a family business setting, a person who displays anger all the time may be considered as a effective and competent senior. In such cases, the expression of anger may be seen as an indicator of power and business acumen. 

A leader who has frequent outbursts of anger can influence subordinates to think and respond in the manner that the leader desires.  Here anger is used to assert one’s seniority and used as a strategic tool. 

Anger can also benefit an organization by alerting the family members of a problem. well-managed anger can be a useful emotion that motivates you to make positive changes. 

Expressing anger in healthy ways 

The family members who have a tendency to angry quickly would benefit by adopting the following techniques:

  • If you feel out of control, walk away from the situation, for some time, until you cool down and feel better.
  • Recognise and accept the emotion as normal and part of life.
  • Try to understand the reasons.
  • Do something physical, such as going for a run or playing sport.

Suggestions for long-term anger management

In business where the member(s) suffer from long term anger management issues, these strategies should be practised.

  • Consider assertiveness training, or learning about techniques of conflict resolution.
  • Learn relaxation techniques, such as meditation or yoga.
  • See a counsellor or therapist if you still feel angry about events that occurred in your past.
  • Exercise regularly.

Inspite of the positive uses of anger, it is viewed as a negative emotion. A family pattern of anger can affect the members’ health, and lead to problems such as anxiety, depression and heart issues. It also leads to business goals being missed. Frequently expressed and experienced anger is harmful to interpersonal relationships. 

Family co-workers in particular need to focus on long term goals for family firm sustainability and to consider long term relationship goals.