Carl Jung, (1875 -1961) and the Individuation Process

If, when you enter the employ of your family’s business and you have a portfolio of successful experience working elsewhere, you have a definite advantage. You probably have a sense of independence and confidence that comes from being on your own. There is a good chance you have moved forward on the of individuation, which is that process of becoming uniquely yourself.

You can thank Carl Jung, the Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst for his clear description of this very important concept. Individuation is the cornerstone of Jung’s psychology. It is a life-long process of becoming uniquely yourself.

In your family you are told you are handsome, beautiful, intelligent, competent…and that may all be true. Working outside your family’s business enhances your individuation process. You have a chance to get honest, untainted feedback on your competence and thus, learn how you stack up against others in this world. When you work for someone else, you are told to do a job; then your immediate superior reviews your performance. If it is not precisely what he/she wanted, they will say, “I reviewed your performance and the product was not quite what I had in mind. This is the way we do it here at Apex Machines.“

You can be certain that your superior will be checking on your performance. If does not meet his/her standard, they may just say, “Young man, I think you are going to be much happier working somewhere else.“ That experience will pull you up short and cause you to think about the things your world has been telling you. Maybe you just don’t measure up. This information is invaluable in finding out who you are and how you are showing up in this world.

In the family business, it is not easy to get honest feedback. It is often very “soft“ feedback, even non-existent, or, on the other extreme, it may be very harsh. Neither soft nor harsh is fair. Honest, accurate feedback is crucial for professional development. The feedback helps you understand who you are, what you have to contribute and how you might improve.

Working elsewhere is important. You have an opportunity to demonstrate that you are a valuable employee for someone else. When you have that achievement under your belt, it becomes part of your case for proving you will be an effective employee in the family enterprise. Working for others gives one’s individuation a big boost.

Employment of a family member who is less than competent is a huge mistake. In family business, it is far better to set the standard high, thus deny entrance of a less than competent family member into the business. Some family businesses set up a system to help those who do not meet the family employment criteria to find a suitable job elsewhere.

No business can or should tolerate a less than competent employee. It undermines the entire system. If this rule is not in place, and less than competent family members are given jobs, sooner or later the less competent family member will become a problem that reverberates throughout the business and the family. That becomes a serious problem because now there is an unhappy employee who happens to be a family member. That means trouble on both fronts.

John W. Gardner, author of “Excllence,“ President of the Carnegie Corporation and Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) under President Lyndon Johnson wrote:

“The society which scorns excellence in plumbing as a humble activity and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy because it is an exalted activity will have neither good plumbing nor good philosophy: neither its pipes nor its theories will hold water.“

There is a prominent place for excellence in family business, and it begins with setting a high standard for excellence.