Family Businesses that Embrace Conflict Find More Success

EY, KSU study examines conflict within 525 of the largest family businesses globally


Conflict can actually be an asset to companies when it's effectively managed and properly resolved. This is according to study findings from EY (No. 3 on the DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list) and Kennesaw State University (KSU) compiled in a new report, "Can embracing conflict spur positive change?" The study collected data from 25 of the world's largest family businesses in each of 21 top global markets, which average $3.48 billion in sales and 12,000 employees.

It examines how family businesses can identify, manage and grow from conflicts that emerge in their operations and from other sources. Given family businesses represent 80-90 percent of all enterprises in North America and nearly 80 percent of new job creation in the U.S., many stand to benefit from embracing conflict.

"Especially as we come off the Labor Day holiday, celebrating the well-being of the American worker, it's important to pay attention to the health and continuity of family businesses," added Carrie Hall, Americas Family Business Leader. "These companies employ the majority of American workers and represent the biggest amount of job growth in the economy. Understanding how to resolve conflicts within these companies is crucial to ensure they continue to be a thriving part of the market."

EY initially identified the benefits of embracing conflict in an earlier report as part of an ongoing effort to measure how family businesses can enhance their performance.

Communication is key to reducing conflict

According to the study, nearly half of family businesses report some level of conflict, but higher family cohesion leads to less family conflict. The study outlines five activities that limit unhealthy conflict:

- Engaging in frequent communication. The survey finds that 90 percent of respondents have regular family or shareholder meetings to discuss the business issues and 64 percent have regular family council meetings.

- Unifying emotional attachments through Corporate Responsibility (CR) efforts. Family businesses that place a high importance on CR report lower incidence of conflict. CR supported by all family members creates a shared view of the family's legacy, promoting pride and unity.

- Setting expectations. Expectations might vary across various business operations such as terms of employment, salaries and shareholder status. Emotions can run high during these conversations and lead to conflict, so setting expectations early is a good practice.

- Building a sense of purpose and mission. Family members must be willing to sacrifice short-term gain for long-term success. By setting goals together, family members are more likely to put aside differences for the sake of the business and family.

- Creating formal mechanisms for recognizing and resolving conflict. Appointing family members or creating a family council to identify and handle potential conflicts can help defuse volatile situations.

Joe Astrachan, PhD, professor of management and entrepreneurship at Kennesaw State University, said:

"For family businesses facing conflicts without an easy solution, having a formal resolution process can be key to successfully solving problems. This process should include detailed responsibilities for each person involved in the process, a procedure for resolution, accountability and monitoring, as well as post-dispute analysis. Shareholders and other third-party individuals can be brought in to help ensure that conflicts are resolved fairly and that all parties are represented."

Different types of conflict have different impacts

The study, conducted with KSU's Cox Family Enterprise Center, highlights three forms of conflict: task, process and relational. Task conflicts, which refer to goals and strategies, and process conflicts, which refer to process management, are generally healthy and can earn positive results if there is no relational conflict. Relational conflict refers to negative feelings such as jealousy and anger, which can destroy a family business if left unchecked.

"Paramount to the family business is the family," says Carrie Hall, EY Americas Family Business Leader. "While conflict can spur innovation, growth and positive change, it can also become detrimental to the organization. In family businesses, conflict can spread past the family to negatively impact employees, the corporation's image and even the market. By handling conflict appropriately, encouraging family cohesion and communication and inviting healthy conflict, family businesses can rise above issues and continue to thrive."

To view the full report, please visit View more carve-out reports from the survey at

Middle-market Companies Seizing Growth by Embracing AI, Diverse Talent Pools and Sweeping Regulation Over Next 12 Months

EY survey shows 87% of middle-market companies plan revenue growth of more than 6% this year, significantly outpacing GDP forecasts

Originally Published by EY.

Middle-market companies across the globe are significantly more optimistic about business conditions and opportunities than last year, according to the findings of the annual EY Growth Barometer released at the EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year Forum. Growth prospects for all major economies are finally improving in 2018, with International Monetary Fund GDP forecasts currently at 3.9% for the year. Amid this positive background, business leaders are bullish about revenue growth.

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Regulatory Complexity is the Greatest Barrier to Widespread Blockchain Adoption, While Regulatory Changes are the Primary Driver of Broader Integration, According to EY Poll

Organizations are making an active effort to integrate blockchain into their business functions as they look to reap the benefits of the technology, with 60% expecting the financial/professional services industry to see the most blockchain breakthroughs in the next two years.

Originally Published by EY.

Regulatory complexity is having a significant impact on widespread blockchain adoption, according to an EY poll of senior professionals who attended the EY Global Blockchain Summit in New York. Sixty one percent see regulatory complexity as the biggest barrier to widespread adoption, followed by integration with legacy technology (51%) and a lack of general understanding of blockchain's capabilities (49%).

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Originally Published by National Organization on Disability.

On November 1st, the National Organization on Disability held our Corporate Leadership Council Fall Luncheon and Roundtable. Hosted at Sony's New York offices, the event centered on the topic of mental health in the workplace.

Members of our Board of Directors and executives from nearly 40 companies held a candid conversation, heard from business leaders, and participated in an insightful Q&A where successful strategies were discussed to accommodate and support employees with mental illness in the workplace.

"Mental illness is the single biggest cause of disability worldwide," said Craig Kramer, a panelist at the event and Chair of Johnson & Johnson's Global Campaign on Mental Health. "One out of four people will have a clinically diagnosable mental illness at some point in their lives," he continued. Another 20 to 25% of the population will be caregivers to loved ones with a mental illness.

The costs are staggering. "In the coming decades, mental illness will account for more than half of the economic burden of all chronic diseases, more than cancer, diabetes, and chronic respiratory diseases combined…. It's trillions of dollars," said Kramer.

From an employer's perspective, the need for a successful strategy to deal with mental illness in the workplace is clear. But what are the most effective ways to confront this challenge? Roundtable participants discussed a wide range of ideas and success stories aimed at de-stigmatizing mental health and incorporating the issue into wider conversations around talent, productivity, and inclusion.


  1. Be empathetic. "The most important workplace practice [with respect to mental health] is empathy," said NOD President Carol Glazer. Empathy is critical for normalizing conversations about mental health, but also for maximizing productivity. "A feeling of psychological safety is important," said Lori Golden, a panelist and Abilities Strategy Leader for Ernst & Young; and this sense of safety requires the empathy of colleagues to flourish.
  2. Tell stories. "Nothing is more activating of empathy than for people to share their powerful stories," said Dr. Ronald Copeland, NOD Board member and Senior Vice President of National Diversity and Inclusion Strategy and Policy and Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer for Kaiser Permanente. Copeland's organization partners with the renowned nonprofit, Story Corps, to capture the stories of Kaiser Permanente employees, and also provides a platform on the company intranet for employees to communicate in a safe space. Both Craig Kramer and Lori Golden also shared examples of how their companies provide opportunities to share their stories and "start the conversation, break the silence," as Kramer put it.
  3. Model from the top. Carol Glazer received a standing ovation at the luncheon for her account of her own experiences with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This type of executive-level modeling sends a powerful message that a company is committed to improving mental health for all employees. Lori Golden shared how EY had experienced great success with a program where top-level managers host office-specific events and share stories of mental illness or addiction that they are personally connected to – either about their colleagues or loved ones or, in a surprisingly high number of instances, about themselves. Senior leadership setting the example conveys that this is a forum in which employees can feel comfortable sharing.
  4. Communicate peer-to-peer. "We all know that there's greater trust of our own peers than there is of the organization," said Lori Golden. So to build trust, EY "took it to the grass roots," creating formal opportunities for employees to have conversations about mental health and asking other ERGs to co-sponsor these events. Craig Kramer also noted that Johnson & Johnson had simply folded mental health issues into their global disability ERGs, eventually building the world's second-largest mental health ERG by piggy-backing on existing infrastructure and leveraging existing connections.
  5. Be flexible. Accommodating [the fact that people live busy, complex lives] gets you better buy-in…and keeps production pretty high," suggested Dr. Copeland. A representative from one Council company concurred, explaining how their company has recently instituted a new policy of paid time off for caregivers on top of federally-funded leave. "Being in a culture in which we measure what you produce and not whether you show up in person all day, every day, and where if you can't be there, you negotiate how the deliverables will get done and in what time frame…is immensely helpful to people who themselves have mental illness issues or addiction or are caring for those who do and may need some flexibility," summarized Lori Golden.
  6. Build a trustworthy Employee Action Plan. Many employees do not access or even trust their organization's internal resources. According to Craig Kramer, the percentage of calls placed to most company Employee Action Plans (EAPs) regarding mental health is "in the low single digits," while "if you look at your drug spend, you'll find that around 50% is [related to] mental health." The people answering those calls must be trained in mental health issues, and employees also need to be assured that EAPs are truly confidential.

While revealing and accommodating mental illness remains a massive challenge in the workplace and beyond, a number of successful strategies are emerging for tackling this challenge – many of them pioneered by companies in NOD's Corporate Leadership Council.

EY: Women CEOs’ Growth Ambitions Significantly Outpacing the Market, Despite Their Ongoing Challenges in Accessing Capital

The EY survey, based on views of CEOs from middle-market companies across the globe, showed that this optimism is in line with improving business conditions internationally.

Originally Published by EY.
  • 30% of female-led companies are targeting growth of more than 15% in next 12 months, compared with just 5% among rest of market
  • 52% of women-led companies have no access to external funding, compared to 30% of male-led companies
  • 17% of respondents think that access to capital is the biggest barrier to growth

Despite encountering more obstacles to accessing capital, female-run businesses are targeting more ambitious growth margins than male-led companies, according to the EY survey Is the x chromosome the x factor for business leadership?, unveiled at the EY Entrepreneurial Winning WomenTM Asia-Pacific and Japan conference this week in Tokyo. The survey, based on views of CEOs from middle-market companies across the globe, showed that this optimism is in line with improving business conditions internationally.

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