Chapter 3: Roles and Identity – in Theory and in the Family Business
Whereas the previous chapter laid one of the foundations for understanding family business dynamics by elaborating on the concept of family, this chapter provides an overview of role and identity as the theoretical foundation or ‘lens’ through which this dynamics makes sense in the chapters that follow. After introducing the concept of role and its relationship to identity, the family business as a context of complex role relationships is discussed. Thereafter follows an elaboration of how roles in general, and business roles more speciﬁcally, fulﬁl basic human needs. Finally role transitions – a main cause of intensiﬁed family business dynamics during times of succession – are discussed in some detail, including their implications for the senior generation who are exiting and the junior generation who are entering roles. Introducing the concept of role The concept of role is one important building block in understanding human behaviour and it is used to show the ‘context bound nature of human life’ 29 HALL 9781845428303 PRINT.indd 29 12/06/2012 15:19 30 Family business dynamics (Burr: 1995:25). As members of social settings, individuals occupy several roles, i.e. positions in a social context (Ashforth, 2001) with different expectations on their behaviour. Role is a concept originally used in the context of the theatre. In a similar way, ‘roles in groups structure behaviour by dictating the “part” that members take as they interact’ (Forsyth, 1990:111). This means that studying organisations implies, in essence, the study of acts. Above all, it is the study...
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