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Albert James

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Jennifer E. Jennings, Albert E. James and Elizabeth A. Tetzlaff

This research takes a second look at data collected by the second author during his dissertation research to address a recognized gap in family business research: the lack of empirically grounded research on the quality of relationships between owning family members and non-family managers, and the consequences of the relationship quality. In doing so, the authors address three questions that remain in extant literature: (1) What aspect of the relationship between non-family managers and family owners tends to be imbued with especial significance?; (2) How do non-family managers tend to respond to the presence or absence of this aspect in their relationships with owning family members?; and (3) What interactions tend to be perceived as either contributing to or detracting from this salient and influential relational aspect? Their findings point to the significance of ‘family-like relations’ between non-family members and family owners. Their findings also offer insight into the types of interactions with family owners that tend to foster or thwart the development of family-like relations, distinguishing and elaborating instantiations of single critical incidents and recurring small gestures. In sum, their study advances understanding of how the quality of relationships between non-family managers and family owners can be strengthened or diminished, providing scholars with at least suggestive insight into a topic that is of documented concern to the leaders of family firms.