Family gatherings at Thanksgiving often bring a mix of emotions: happiness at being re-united with loved ones who may live far away, but also sometimes stress over strained family relationships caused by a myriad of reasons.

When family members work together in a business setting, similar ranges of emotions and potential conflicts can arise. While hopefully they experience the joy of working together with a common purpose, sometimes stress and bitterness take over when family members disagree on a vision for the business, or feel they are not being treated fairly by their parents, siblings or more distant relatives.

Family members who are also business partners must juggle both the range of emotions that come from working with a loved one, and also the practical realities of running the business on a daily basis, such as making sure products and services are delivered properly for the customers, training and supervising employees and making payroll, and treating one another fairly in terms of work assignments, compensation and roles in strategic decision-making.

Unlike a large business organization where there are independent professional managers to help make decisions and guide the enterprise, in a family-owned company business decisions can often be viewed, rightly or wrongly, as having a personal undercurrent or bias. Family emotions can cloud business decisions and result in dysfunction and a breakdown in the ability of family members to work together. The same types of emotions can prove corrosive to working relationships in other closely held businesses, even where the partners are not related.

In his latest advisory, veteran business law attorney and PLDO Partner John (Jay) R. Gowell describes why and how problems may arise in family-owned businesses and offers solutions when such challenges do occur among family owners. To read Attorney Gowell’s advisory, click Family Business Disputes…Like an Awkward Thanksgiving? If you or someone you know is struggling with these types of challenges, whether in a family-owned business or other closely-held company, please contact Attorney Gowell at or . We welcome your comments, questions and suggestions.