By using a wide assortment of tools from their parental tool box, however, parents can often keep sibling conflict from getting to the point at which the business suffers. Here are some ideas:
- Respect differences. "Our daddy [Isaac Thomas Lloyd, the founder of Lloyd's Moving Company] used to say, `The head needs the neck, and the neck needs the shoulders.' We try to keep that in mind when we work together," says King. Whether the siblings work in similar positions or different ones, parents have to be mindful not to pit one child's abilities against the other's. The company's success is dependent on many different talents.
- Don't shuttle information back and forth. If one of the children complains to you about another or tells you something unflattering about another, Reece suggests one of two methods for handling it. Either absorb and forget it, or toss it back by saying something like "He's your brother. What are you going to do about it?"
- Emphasize that the company benefits each member of the family--and future generations. Says King, "Our father instilled in us the belief that as long as the job gets done, we shouldn't care who gets the credit for it. We'll all benefit." If this advice is internalized by the children, it will be a guiding force even when a parent is no longer around to mediate disputes.
- Establish guidelines to help reduce rivalry. Well-thought-out business policies eliminate the need for many subjective decisions, such as who should enter the business and when or what level of respect and interaction is expected. Subjective decisions only fuel childlike reactions of "you do that for her but don't do it for me."
- Encourage each sibling to participate in the achievements of the other. If one sibling is awarded a sales promotion, for example, the whole family should be involved in the celebration. "As long as the family has to share the pain of business problems, they should share the glory of each other's successes, too," says Reece.
Though parents would like to avoid it, they have to understand that sibling rivalry has existed since Cain and Abel. All they can do is set the stage for the tension to be productive and dynamic, and help the children learn to appreciate and support each other for the good of the business.
Behavior Resources Inc., 18 Lavinia Ave., Greenville, SC 29601, fax: (864) 233-3706
Lloyd's Moving Co. Inc., (215) 473-0442, fax: (215) 477-9384
Working Systems, 2000 L St. N.W., #522, Washington, DC 20036, (202) 659-2222