Academic journal article Entrepreneurship: Theory and Practice

Differences in the Outcomes of Work and Family Conflict between Family- and Nonfamily Businesses: An Examination of Business Founders

Academic journal article Entrepreneurship: Theory and Practice

Differences in the Outcomes of Work and Family Conflict between Family- and Nonfamily Businesses: An Examination of Business Founders

Article excerpt

This study examined the effects of work and family conflict on work tension for founders of family versus nonfamily businesses. Drawing on a model of conflict between work and family roles, it was predicted that founders of family businesses would experience significantly greater work tension from family-work conflict than for founders of nonfamily businesses. Conversely, it was predicted that work-family conflict would exert more negative effects on founders of nonfamily businesses than for those running family businesses. Results from a national (United States) sample of business founders supported these predictions. Implications for the management of work and family conflict in family versus nonfamily businesses are discussed.


The term "family business," by definition, connotes a unique and extensive interplay between two seemingly different domains, "the family" and "the business." This interplay is juxtaposed against nonfamily businesses, where the roles of "business owner" and "family member" may be more distinct and compartmentalized. The close relationships and interactions among family members at home and at work can present challenges to family firms, such that the interplay between family and business domains is not always seamless (Kets de Vries, 1993). Such challenges can be particularly problematic for founders of family businesses, who face financial, operational, and logistical tasks that can create conflict between the family and work domains. These challenges are magnified for younger, first generation firms, which must operate under time and resource constraints that can expand the possibility of conflict between domains. Ultimately, conflict between work and family domains can gradually become a strain on the physical and psychological health of business founders (e.g., generate work tension), adversely affecting their ability to develop and grow their family firms. The fact that there are organizations and counseling services catering to the family business to deal with conflict and resulting work tensions associated with family involvement in the business provides practical evidence of this problem (Cole & Johnson, 2012).

Researchers have argued that work and family conflict is particularly relevant to family business owners regardless of whether the conflict is rooted in family demands that reduce their ability to attend to business needs, work demands that reduce their ability to fulfill the (non-work related) needs of family members, or a combination of both (Foley & Powell, 1997; Kellermanns & Eddleston, 2004). Family business owners face additional pressures to maintain both business processes and healthy family relationships while at work (Werbel & Danes, 2010), which suggests that the means by which work and family conflict affects work-related and family-related outcomes may be different for family firms versus nonfamily firms.

Work and family conflict occurs when work demands interfere with family responsibilities (work-to-family conflict: WFC), and when family demands interfere with work responsibilities or requirements (family-to-work conflict: FWC) (Frone, Russell, & Cooper, 1992). Work tension serves as an important indicator of the psychological and physical symptoms of distress associated with the tensions related to work, such as nervousness, problems with sleeping, and a concern for one's health (Grandey & Cropanzano, 1999; House & Rizzo, 1972). Work tension can generally be viewed as an inability to cope with workplace or family demands/expectations, interpersonal relationships at work, or structural and cultural characteristics that overwhelm a person. The purpose of the current study is to examine the extent to which WFC and FWC influence the work tension of founders of young family and nonfamily firms.

Prior research suggests that work and family conflict experienced by firm founders and the subsequent work tension they experience can be traced to the conflict that exists for such persons, given the family-related and work-related roles they occupy. …

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