Resentment Batters Family Business

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“You’ve been a


pain in the butt


ever since


you were born!”



     You own, operate or manage a family business. God Bless You. Now let’s get down to reality. Odds are that you, or at least someone you work with, harbors resentment. And those upset feelings are getting in the way of business growth, perhaps survival. When we collect negative feelings about someone else, resentment is usually the accompanist.

     Resentment often takes the form of a demand that the other person feel guilty. In the classic Addison-Wesley book Born To Win, authors James and Jongeward suggest, “When you become aware that your resentment is growing, handle each situation as it occurs and with whom it occurs rather than collecting and holding your feelings, and perhaps cashing them in for a big prize or on an ‘innocent’ person.”

     The world renown educator/counselor/co-authors recommend the following steps for dealing effectively with resentment:

  • “Try to talk the problem over with whoever is bugging you.

  • When you attempt this, avoid accusing the other.

  • Tell the other person how the situation is affecting you. Use the pronoun ‘I’ instead of an accusative ‘you.’ [For example, ‘I don’t like smoke; it bothers me,’ instead of  ‘You’re really thoughtless the way you blow your smoke around.’]”

  • Remembering that the solution to any group problem lies within the group, James and Jongeward go on to urge that in a family group, it is helpful to set up “resentment and appreciation sessions,” which they point out need to have specific rules. Here is how they define that process:

  • “Each person in turn verbally states the resentments he holds against the others; (it is important that the others listen but do not defend themselves. The statements of resentment are to be let out but not reacted to.)

  • After resentments have been stated, each person tells the others what he appreciates about them.”

     When first learning how to conduct this kind of session, do it daily. After it can be done with ease, stretch it to weekly.

     In some working situations, resentment and appreciation sessions can be useful, “particularly where people work together closely and personal irritations occur easily. If it is tried, all members should agree to a trial period — say two months.” At the end of this period, the usefulness of the procedure can be re-evaluated. If “participants decide to continue, they could decide on adaptations and establish regular session times, like meeting once every two or three weeks,” or whatever seems “practical.”

     It should go without saying that an outside professional facilitator or family business coach can play an important role in establishing and moderating this kind of program. The more structured and enforced the process, the more likely it is to eliminate or minimize nonproductive ill feelings and be able to help produce positive results.

     Is all of this easy? Probably not. Does it take time? Yes. Is the risk reasonable? If everyone involved is agreeable to pursue positive and productive solutions, yes. Should you try it on your own? Possibly, if you are not personally involved in the resentment exchanges, or directly related to those who are, and have a firm but compassionate leadership quality.  

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