Father-son relationship dynamics and individual performance: A study of the marwari family business
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Family businesses with their overlapping systems of business, ownership and family (Gersick, Davis, Hampton, & Lansberg, 1997) represent a distinctive class of organizations encompassing the economic landscape of nations. Survival and growth across generations is a major challenge faced by family firms (Calabrò & Mussolino, 2012) and is dependent on the performance and effectiveness of the successors of these businesses. Individual performance is a central concept in organizational psychology (Viswesvaran & Ones, 2000) but the construct and its antecedents have been grossly under-researched in the family business literature. These are some evidence to suggest that the son’s productivity and satisfaction in business is greatly dependent upon his relationship with his father (Handler, 1991) but gaps exist in the understanding of the nature of this complex relationship and its impact on performance. It has also been recognized that family businesses are nested in and strongly influenced by the community of which they are a part (Danes, Lee, Stafford, & Heck, 2008; Munshi, 2007) and thus their study is meaningful only when done within the cultural context of their community. This study is an attempt to develop greater understanding of the meaning and antecedents of performance of the sons in family businesses. The study is situated in the Marwari community, which is one of the oldest and most prominent business communities of India and is hierarchical and high context in nature. A grounded theory approach was used and 24 in-depth interviews were conducted with individuals who were part of a Marwari family business. Results indicated that various social norms of the community such as collectivism, patriarchy and business as a way of life facilitated the performance of the individual by creating greater work security and identification with the business and ensuring the support of the extended family. Various behaviors of the father such as training and development, recognition, empowerment and social support were found to be important antecedents for the performance of the son. Skills that helped sons perform well in family businesses included ability to manage hierarchical relationships, political skills, and emotional agility. Mothers also were found to indirectly facilitate the sons’ performance in business. It was concluded that sustainability of medium to large family firms in the Marwari community was ensured by skill of the son in maintaining relationships with all stakeholders, the wise involvement of the male elders in the preparation and growth of the next generation, and buffering role of the mother. The implications of insights derived from this study for methodology, theory, and practice are discussed.
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