Family Business Mediation Video No 46: Ethnic Issues & Cultural Norms. By Jon Kenfield

Common Causes of Family Conflict & What to Do About Them.

Video No 46: Ethnic Issues and Cultural Norms.

• When a family’s culture is strong, it can exert powerful influences on personal expectations and behaviours – both in the family and in its business activities.

• Most ethnic cultures are based on historic traditions which, by definition, are anchored by the past: from another time, another place, and usually very different circumstances.

• These cultures may make little sense, and have limited appeal, to people who haven’t grown up immersed in them – which is the classic situation for first and second generation migrant families from a troubled Europe.

• We often see something similar with Asian families – when parents had a traditional upbringing, and their children have grown up in modern Australia.

• When “old-school”, ethnically influenced decision-making produces business decisions that are seriously out of step with modern (normal) commercial thinking – over anything from business leadership and family succession to business investment – cultural differences and generational tensions flare into catalysts for frictions which, left unresolved, lead to conflicts – with current and next generation family members, and non-family employees. The consequences can become very unpleasant.


• Respect differences: there’s nothing wrong here, just an inappropriate and probably unworkable mixing of family with business decision-making that’s failing to satisfy anyone, and everything.

• Separate family from business decision making.

• Create separate plans and rules for each.

• Establish separate structures and different processes – and remember which environment you’re in when making decisions.

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