A few days ago I attended a meeting of the members of Leading Network – an association of interim managers – on the theme of generational changes within SMEs. The question was whether our professionalism was enough to deal with cases where the level of conflict within the family was very high. The presence at our meeting of Dr. Pier Christian Verde, a psychoanalyst and psychotherapist, answered our question.

In our family-run SMEs, the entwining of family affairs with business matters and problems often leads to complicated dynamics from which it is difficult to become untangled. When the conflict is significant, however, trying to manage these processes becomes Mission Impossible.

Regarding this Dr. Verde advised using simple tools (for example the sociogram) to arrive at a diagnosis of the situation. I think it would be useful – through these tools – to make a scale to measure the level of conflict in the company in order to establish a point beyond which the internecine infighting has reached a pathological level. In these cases, the intervention with solely business skills is no longer sufficient. The skills of a therapist specialized in couples counseling is necessary to determine if it is still possible to “stay together”.

In these cases more drastic solutions are often required. For example: the family takes a step back and cedes full command to an external manager. Or: we sell the company. The manager that backs the older or younger business owners in an attempt to act as a peacemaker and manage the change of hands, turns out to be just a hot poultice that only allows the passage of more time and worsens the situation of the company.