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Holiday Trends – 2005

Family relationships are powerful and complex. Family dynamics provide some of the most intriguing situations that we will ever experience. When they work, our lives are vibrant and exhilarating, and when they fail, we are forlorn and feel worthless. Pity those people who are not in family businesses, as they are limited in this experience, for better or worse.

I have always been a fan of actor, John Cleese. His Basil Fawlty character is an excellent study in unresponsive communication. We all have a bit of 'Basil' in us, but he appears to display a significant misunderstanding to the subtleties and complexities of human interaction.

Perhaps we might learn from Basil by asking ourselves a few questions: How can we experiment with our conversation strategies so there is an outcome that changes the interaction? How can we recognize the difference between professional and personal conversations, and then 'get it right'? How can we make ourselves more responsive to new thinking?

Enjoy reading the following...

True GRIT1, not HH2

The holidays already have their challenges of travel, organizing and socializing, so here are a few thoughts to consider that may help you enjoy them and your family... or not...

Complete all the business year-end discussions and decisions before (or after) the family get-together. It's the only time to address the year-end decisions; we are all together; why spend the money for extra travel. Ask someone to make an important decision with scant information [read: sign here!].
Break from owner and business conversation and focus on the positive characteristics of your family. Inquire why the deal so-and-so was working on went sour or why certain people are getting bonuses, thereby lessening the available funds for the inactive shareholders. Hold a business family meeting at the dining room table and ask the spouses and children to go to the family room until it's over.
Demonstrate your strong commitment to family harmony and collaboration. Discuss ongoing rivalries and how so-and-so is driving you crazy. Perhaps there's an opportunity to ambush someone, or disclose a secret or start a false rumour. Try various divide-and-conquer strategies, revive any existing conflict or just set up opposing cliques.
Send messages that you value each person's contribution and are committed to building stronger family relationships. Ensure that people take notice of your ideas and opinions. Experiment with the Blame Game, hurtful jokes, sarcasm and put-downs under the guise of humour to prove your contribution thereby ensuring other people feel incompetent, unloved and unable to meet expectations.
Tear off the labels. See your family members as they are now, not as they were, and present a "one for all and all for one" family team perspective. Concentrate on offensive personal and physical characteristics and stir up some old feelings in order to prove that situations never change! Misinterpret people's intentions, respond to others with inappropriate levels of intensity, personalize events and generally get angry [and feel 'wronged'].
Focus on family philanthropy and other beneficial monetary choices. Engage in sensitive compensation and estate planning conversations. Use equality as a weapon so everyone feels that he/she is unacknowledged, receiving an allowance and dependent on 'the hand that feeds them'.

1Gradual Reduction in Tension – a way to lessen the stress often associated with family holidays.
2Hostile Holiday – a way to increase the stress often associated with family holidays.

Further Reading...

Source: Extracted from Family Ties® E-Letter – December 2005 Issue, By Aron Pervin, CMC, ICD.D, TEP. Subscribe for the free E-Letter.

Discretionary Bonuses: "The Christmas Turkey in an Envelope"

"In family businesses, the year-end discretionary bonus is a very popular approach to additional cash compensation," family business adviser Ernest A. Doud Jr. of Doud Hausner & Associates in Glendale, Calif., writes in The Family Business Compensation Handbook. "Owners like it because of the flexibility it provides. If the owners think they have had a good year, they pay a good bonus. If, on the other hand, they think the year has been a bust, they may reduce the bonus amount or choose not to pay any bonus at all." While such flexibility "allows business owners to stay in their comfort zone," Doud writes, "a discretionary bonus (which in most businesses reminds me of the Christmas turkey in an envelope) has greater potential to be a disincentive." He explains why:

"On the other hand," Doud writes, "a performance-based incentive virtually eliminates the disadvantages inherent in a discretionary plan." He cites two reasons:

Source: Family Business: The guide for building and managing family companies – Family Business Magazine E-Newsletter December 5, 2005. Tip: Register for the E-Newsletter, it's worth the read.

Holiday Bonuses Down, Pay for Performance Up

While parties are back, holiday bonuses are not. Fifty-nine per cent of companies will not award them this year, according to a survey of more than 1,000 large companies in the United States by Hewitt Associates, the global human resources services firm.

Instead, pay for performance continues to grow, with 78 per cent of organizations offering a variable pay program, up from 51 per cent in 1991.

Of the 41 per cent of companies that will offer a holiday bonus program, 44 per cent will give employees a gift of food; 37 per cent will provide retailer gift certificates and 13 per cent will award cash.

Hewitt's 2005 holiday study found that 45 per cent of companies surveyed have never offered a holiday bonus, while 14 per cent have discontinued their programs.

And with such recent events as the hurricane disasters, 9 per cent said they will direct some or all of the money they would have spent on holiday bonuses to charitable organizations this year.

Source: The Globe and Mail – Friday, November 18, 2005 Page C2


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