People take it for granted their families have played an important role in their lives, but most of us are only vaguely aware of just how profound that impact has been. We often have little sense of the way in which our personalities and behaviors have been shaped by previous generations – the ghosts of the past.

Though it may not be apparent to those sitting around a conference table for a meeting, every business is a family business. That is, the organization is a meeting place for the beliefs, values, and behaviors generated by early family influences. Because we often assume the beliefs and values of others are like our own, conflicts and frustrating misunderstandings are commonplace at work. The goal of this article is to outline a conceptual framework that will shed light on the way families can influence our lives at work. This understanding can be used for increased self-awareness and personal effectiveness. In addition, since each organization is itself a sort of reconstituted family, these family lenses can provide powerful insights into the dynamics of the work place – and suggestions for improving organizational effectiveness.