No matter where you stand on the immigration law, one thing is painstakingly clear. Our country is obsessed with protecting everyone’s rights with little to no concern for their responsibilities. Somehow we seem to suffer from affluence guilt that leads us to feel it is our responsibility to take care of everyone on the planet, and perhaps more accurately, that everyone on the planet has a right to be cared for by the U.S. 

I see this same dynamic play out in family businesses. The founder of the business worked day and night, 7 days a week, taking a 2nd mortgage out on the house and leveraging everything else he had, to get the business off the ground. It was no one’s responsibility but his or hers. They took no salary for years. They busted their tail to make payroll on Friday. When times were tough they cut their own pay first. 

Thirty years later we’re dealing with the 2nd generation who are bitter toward their parents for neglecting them and spending too much time on the business. And yet along with this bitterness comes a “you owe me” attitude towards mom or dad and the business. 

“You owe me a job.” “You owe me an advancement.” “You owe me a company car.” “You owe me use of the company plane whenever and for whatever I want.” “You owe me a large salary.” “You owe me the CEO position.” “The business owes me dividends.” “And, by the way, I’m not going to neglect my family the way you neglected me, so I not only have a right to all of this because you’re my mom and dad, I also have a right to a balanced lifestyle that allows me flexibility to live my life the way I want to.” “I get the benefit of all the wealth your determination, hard work, and created resources is responsible for.” 

Frequently, the guilt of the business owner is somewhat assuaged by giving in to these demands, confirming for the kids that, indeed, they must have a right to all of these things. It’s emotional manipulation at its best. It’s also a recipe for disaster. In my next two posts, I’ll discuss the importance of responsibility to alleviating the devastating effects of rights.

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