Organizational resilience in the face of crisis : communal coping in family businesses




Powers, Courtney J.

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When crises like the COVID-19 pandemic arise and leave devastating impacts on family businesses, the economy, and our world at large, there is an appeal to organizational communication scholars to not only explore the impact of these crises on organizations, but to also understand what can contribute to building resilience in the face of these crises. Given that coping with others is fundamentally a communicative behavior that can have implications for business resilience in a crisis, this study investigates how family business members appraise work-related stress and communally cope together for the sake of their business’s success and resilience during an extended crisis. Guided by Afifi et al.’s (2020) extended model of communal coping, organizational and crisis-specific variables such as crisis self-efficacy, organizational identification, and perceived severity of the crisis were explored as they relate to communal coping in an extended crisis impacting family businesses. Finally, organizational resilience was investigated as an outcome of communal coping. Using quantitative survey data collected from more than 500 family business member participants whose family businesses have continued to operate after the COVID-19 Pandemic, this study found that communal coping significantly contributed to organizational resilience for family businesses, above and beyond other variables. Additionally, this study found evidence of “independent” coping coexisting alongside communal coping behaviors for the family business participants in this study. While both communal coping and “independent” coping behaviors were linked to an increase in organizational resilience, communal coping was a much stronger predictor of organizational resilience. Furthermore, organizational identification and crisis self-efficacy were each found to partially mediate the relationship between communal coping and organizational resilience, and participants’ perceptions of the severity of the crisis impacting their family businesses were found to be an influential predictor of engagement in communal coping behaviors overall. Not only do key findings from this study offer useful recommendations for family businesses, and potentially even organizations at large that are facing a crisis, but this research ultimately makes theoretical contributions to the intersection of organizational and interpersonal communication by extending the communal coping theory to family businesses.


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