Matthias Waldkirch (2018)

From professional interactions to relational work: Investigating relationships around non-family CEOs in family firms

Relationships constitute a central and significant part of our lives and form the very foundation on which organizations are built. They provide meaning to work, create connections, and ultimately shape organizations. This dissertation adds to the growing literature on workplace relationships by studying the chief executive officer (CEO) in an organizational form that is inherently built on relationships: the family firm. Focusing on the introduction of a non-family CEO in a family firm, this dissertation investigates the meaning of relationships for non-family CEOs, the work they perform, and the organizations they reside in. It builds on a diverse set of relational perspectives and uses conceptual approaches and in-depth longitudinal case research.

The first paper reviews, organizes and extends the literature on non-family CEOs by using gap-spotting and assumption-challenging. The second paper outlines how relationships in the triad between a non-family CEO and members of the current and next generation family owners influence whether a CEO stays or leaves the family firm. The third paper investigates how family firms adopt professional practices and outlines four modes of professionalization, showing how family firms‘ overprofessionalize’. The fourth paper follows a CEO succession and reorganization in a family firm over 16 months and investigates how contesting processes of job design and crafting change and create job systems.

This dissertation contributes by introducing relational work as a core aspect of a CEO’s work, by extending our knowledge about non-family CEOs in family firms and by challenging the understanding of professionalization in family firms. It also contributes to practice by providing guidelines for structuring relations between family owners and (prospective) non-family CEOs.