Labour Studies Index

Updated: 2022-05-16

Learning bad habits across generations: How negative imprints affect human resource management in the family firm

Document type Article
Author Eddleston, Kimberly A.
Author Kellermanns, Franz W.
Author Kidwell, Roland E.
Journal Human Resource Management Review
Volume 28
Date 2018 03
ISSN 1053-4822
Pages 5-17


Organizational learning can be a key shared value that perpetuates the family's and the family firm's culture across generations. Imprinting theory helps to explain the impact that lessons learned and transmitted can have on the development of human resources in the family firm. However, the results of imprinting may not necessarily be positive, particularly when imprinting manifests itself in negative processes and expectations. Whereas imprinting and organizational learning are often associated with a “positive halo effect,” they have the potential to result in negative behaviors and deleterious firm-level outcomes. Employing imprinting theory as a framework, we highlight the potential dark side of imprinting within the family firm context and how it can damage human resource efforts and threaten company performance and firm survival. Finally, we suggest how bad habits may be broken and replaced with more effective routines so as to ensure the family firm's continuity and success.