There are several non-economic factors that distinguish family-owned schools from those with other ownership structures.  Owner values and emotional engagement are two such factors addressed in previous posts.  Another such unique and distinguishing factor is altruistic behavior among family members.  Altruistic behavior among family members, in the literature, is considered to refer to family members’ desire to cater to the welfare of their family unit (Gomez-Mejia, Cruz, Berrone, and De Castro).

This consultant has worked with many proprietary schools in which altruistic behavior among family members has been functional, purposeful, and effective; contexts within which members of a family have joined forces in operating their school, resulting in an efficient and economically-sound endeavor, bringing economic and non-economic benefit to the family members, as well as to the consumers and beneficiaries of the enterprise.

There is, however, potential for a darker side to this factor of altruistic behavior, in the context of family-owned schools, in which the effort and intent is to benefit family members engaged in the enterprise, without significant consideration to their qualification or contribution to achievement of intended organizational purposes.  The satisfaction resulting from this altruism, and the benefits received, can end up being a consequence of living up to family obligations, rather than a commitment and expectation of competence, contribution, or professional performance.

As a safeguard against this sort of altruistic behavior, which can be highly detrimental in the school setting, it is increasingly common for family-owned schools to develop governance-level policies which require owners and beneficiaries of owners who intend to work within the schools, to:

  • demonstrate qualifications commensurate with the position,
  • submit to supervision and evaluation according to established norms,
  • and receive compensation consistent with that received by employees of similar rank and responsibility.

In this way, safeguards are put into place to ensure that altruistic behavior among family members doesn’t become a negative force within the school and its community.

©2018 David A. Wells, Ed.D.