The Unreasonable First Generation

Seth Godin recently wrote a blog post on a characteristic bias of human nature regarding the perception of “reasonableness.” He pointed out that in relationships, we consistently perceive and “act as though” it’s the other person, and not ourselves, who is being unreasonable.

This situation is not infrequently seen in the interactions between members of first and second generations in family businesses. The son describes, often from a place of frustration, that the father is being unreasonable, in one way or another, in restricting his being promoted to decision-making status in the business. Their ensuing stories may be buttressed on the father’s side by perceptions of being railroaded, and on the son’s side by the feeling that his father lacks belief in his abilities.

Perceptual disconnects like these are based upon years of family interaction, ripe with ingrained habits and complex attitudes invisible within the family itself. A professional family-business advisor can reveal the complexities and misperceptions, align expectations and help develop positive governance structures within the family business.