Family Structure and Ownership Transition as “Polar Opposites”: An Emotional Embeddedness Perspective

Decker-Lange, Carolin (2019). Family Structure and Ownership Transition as “Polar Opposites”: An Emotional Embeddedness Perspective. In: Lossau, Julia; Warnke, Ingo H. and Schmidt-Brücken, Daniel eds. Spaces of Dissention. Towards a New Perspective on Contradiction. Springer VS, pp. 99–111.



Family firms provide a fertile ground to study emotions as a source of contradiction. The interplay of a firm and an owner family exerts influence on strategic decisions in a way that differs from decision-making in non-family firms, such as ownership transition choices. I apply an emotional embeddedness perspective to explain ownership transition choices, which contradict the prevailing instrumental logic in management research. Repeated interactions between actors with different roles in a family firm shape the quality of the family's structure and its effect on important strategic outcomes. The interplay of family structure and emotional embeddedness can lead to ownership transition choices that contradict an instrumental logic of action. Although family structure might be conducive to internal ownership transition, this choice is not always the preferred option because of intervening conditions and the application of alternative principles of action. Researchers in the field of contradiction studies should probe into situations in the management context, in which circumstances may favour the application of an instrumental logic but actually lead to unexpected choices and outcomes. This would enhance our understanding of contingencies that foster alternative action principles in economic action and interaction.

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