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The father who harasses his son

I am a managing member of a real estate firm in which I employ my son and the other managing member employs his son. My son and I have absolutely no problems working together; in fact, we have both taken several of the surveys provided on your website and have addressed any small issues we need to work on. However, I am very concerned about the other managing member and his son. I find it difficult to say anything when I see the way my partner treats his son; I actually view it as a form in many ways of harassment in the workplace.I am fairly confident that since my partner’s son is so anxious to gain respect and approval from his father (my partner), he would not resort to seeking assistance from an attorney, but I also know that a son can handle only so much from his father, from whom all he seeks is support, approval, respect and, obviously, love.Both of them do very well in the business and are profitable to the company. Do you have any suggestions on how I may approach either my partner or his son to discuss these continuing conflicts? My partner’s wife and daughter-in-law-to-be are also employed at my company. Should I seek assistance from either of them? It seems that my partner’s wife just sweeps things under the rug, and with each day that passes I am getting more and more concerned about my investment in this company as well as the mental well-being of my partner’s son.Thank you for any advice you may suggest to assist me in this very difficult situation.


You and your partner have not created a one-firm culture. If you had a better history of communication, trust would exist and it would be easier for you to discuss your observations. Both you and your partner must work hard to increase your interpersonal communications and trust in each other.

It is good that you and your son have a positive relationship and address even the smallest of issues. But the two of you should deal also with the macro issues related to the future of the firm and the interrelationship among all of you. While it is understandable that you have concern for the mental well-being of your partner’s son and his progress, your primary concern is for your investment in this profitable company. In the long run, your partner’s treatment of his son could have a negative effect on the firm and may result in his not being viewed as a successor by the company, its customers or the business community.

It is time to break down the barrier that has grown between your families. Ideally, you should have a working relationship with your partner’s family members and vice versa. But I would not seek assistance from your partner’s wife or daughter-in-law; it would be outside your area of expertise. You should consider seeking outside professional counseling.

Because the company does not have a culture of sharing, you must be open to a professional facilitator helping you get to these next steps. It is imperative that you and your partner start meeting to do both short-term and long-term business planning, which should incorporate each of you having supervisory responsibilities over each other’s family members. These meetings can help to determine if the firm’s future is based on a common vision for the business and if this vision can work for the next generation. During this process, you will be able to see what obstacles, if any, continue to stand in the way of the business’s future, and you can choose to work through those issues or not.

Your sons will grow from this experience and can be evaluated as to their strengths and weaknesses, and their ability to work together and become successors. They will feel more empowered and more like owners as they start giving valuable input. I am confident that as you work on both business and interpersonal issues, you will come to a clear realization as to the future of the business and the partnership.

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