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Finding Fault

Scott was upset with his father. He had a key job in a branch of the family business and the branch was sold -- but that wasn't the problem. His job was eliminated and he hadn't gotten a new one yet -- but that wasn't the problem. His income continued, so that certainly wasn't the problem.

"This is an emotional thing for me, " he explained to a family business consultant. "I want a job that let's me use my skills, but I don't see where I fit in the remainder of the organization and that makes me feel like a burden, literally a 'misfit' in the family.

"And when I try to talk to my father about it I get lectures on 'the ownership attitude' and 'our entrepreneurial culture' and I feel worse because I feel like I'm not living up to his and the family's expectations.

"I can't get my father even to acknowledge my feelings, that makes me angry with him. Am I wrong for feeling this way?" he asked, holding back tears.

"Your emotions are real, legitimate and understandable," the consultant responded. "Your father could have handled the situation with much greater sensitivity...."

"Well sensitivity has never been his long suit," Scott interrupted.

"Then why did you expect sensitivity now?" asked the consultant. There was no answer.

"If you are looking to assign fault, you can fault your father. I rarely find finger pointing to be very productive in these family business situations, but it may help in a couple of ways in this case."

"Right. If we can get him to realize he's at fault, then he can change his behavior. He can acknowledge emotions...his and mine. Then we can talk...."

"That's not what I had in mind. Things rarely work out that way."

"Well what did you have in mind?"

"In my view, your father has done an admirable job of building a business, running the business and providing opportunities for his children. But he's a long way from perfect -- especially in his communication with his adult children. You should view his 'fault' in this context."

"Okay. What's your point?"

"Well, understanding when your father falls short can help you not to blame yourself inappropriately," the counselor explained.

"That's all I get? How about his taking responsibility for his actions? How about his finding ways to improve himself?"

"Sometimes those are reasons to find fault. But they aren't helpful in this case. You need time and space for reflection -- for sorting out your many feelings in this situation. You need to be focusing on your own responsibilities and improving yourself. But there is another useful way to deal with your dad's faults..."

"I'm all ears, Doc."

"It is so you can accept that your father is not perfect and so you can forgive him. Until you do that you can never deal with him on an equal basis and he can't with you." "I'm permitted to find fault with my dad so I can forgive him."


"You're pretty strange, Doc."

"So I've been told. I have one more piece of advice that you might not find so weird."

"Okay. Let's hear it."

"Take a few weeks off to air out and to sort it all out. Then come back and talk with your Dad and others about your future in the business."





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