How to survive Thanksgiving dinner family and their different “opinions”


Wondering how to avoid heated discussions this holiday season? Try watching “All in the Family” created by Norman Lear in 1971. The principal character, Archie Bunker, mocks or belittles minorities and ethnic groups over 9 seasons in 205 episodes. His wife, Edith, is submissive, eager to please him, and rarely says anything to disagree with him. Their daughter, Gloria, brings home her college boyfriend (“Meathead” – does anyone know his real name?), who spars with Archie constantly. As the show progresses, it becomes apparent that Archie’s prejudice is not motivated by a desire to create pain for others but is rather a combination of the era and environment in which he was raised and a generalized distrust of everyone, even his own family!

This tumultuous dynamic is not only reserved for family holiday get togethers. It’s a pattern that is repeated in businesses over and over again. “All in the Family” is art imitating life. And much like Norman Lear helped introduce a series of sitcoms to highlight our differences for a better future, my practice is focused on much the same two things: reconciling differences and “the future.”

Baby boomers grew up during the turmoil of the 1960s, using rotary phones and typewriters. Millennials were teenagers during 9/11 and many entered the job market with the onset of the Great Recession. Their first phone was a cell phone. Like Archie, who is from the Greatest Generation, today’s elder generation are loyal to the company, the family, and the community. Millennials grew up watching their parents lose jobs through layoffs and are loyal to the project they are working on. They frequently change jobs as soon as better pay and/or working conditions are offered. This approach coupled with the pandemic, explains why employees are demanding more and in many ways contributing to “the great recession.”  And companies, especially family businesses, are struggling to adapt. Navigating these changes affects their company’s growth trajectory.

The “All in the Family” characters portray the communication struggle different generations experience. Attracting and retaining talent has changed dramatically and businesses are struggling. Learning how to bridge the gap between what your company currently offers and why high performing employees will stay with your company requires an openness to generational differences and a willingness to listen and explore options.

While Archie and Meathead’s butting heads is funny, missing new possibilities because they are so entrenched in their own “generational” point of view is not. If you’re struggling talking with the family patriarch (or matriarch) about new workforce retention strategies or your future role in the business, I’m here to help facilitate this conversation. I’m a phone call away.

“All in the Family” was the first American tv sitcom to confront controversial subjects and highlight the humor in family conflicts.  It’s currently available for streaming on Amazon Prime. If it’s too controversial for you, look at six spin offs that emerged from the series:

  • Maude (1972-1978)
  • Good Times (1974-1979)
  • The Jeffersons (1975-1985)
  • Archie Bunker’s Place (1979-1983)
  • Checking In (1981)
  • Gloria (1982-1983)