(By Professor Enrique M. Soriano, as originally appeared at Sunstar CEBU)

Frederico “Fredo” Corleone is a fictional character in Mario Puzo’s novel The Godfather. He is the second son of the mafia don Vito Corleone, younger brother of Sonny and elder brother to Michael (portrayed by Al Pacino) and sister, Connie. In the films, Fredo’s feelings of personal inadequacy and his inability to act effectively on his own behalf are character flaws leading to greater consequences. With so much insecurity starting in childhood, Fredo exhibited poor coping mechanism and would always complain how he was ignored by his siblings and deprived of parental love during his adolescent years. Eventually, his selfishness led to serious problems for the family, which ended when his own brother (Michael) disowned him. In short, Fredo Corleone was known for his incompetence, bad business ideas, heavy drinking and betrayals.

If you watch The Godfather II, you will discover what happened to Fredo. Do you have a “Fredo” in your family? In a well-written article by Kimberly Eddelston, Fredo is described as “the kind of sibling who just couldn’t get it right, no matter how hard he tried. But because he was family, Fredo was involved in some of the family’s business ventures. Due to his weak personality and below average intelligence, he was constantly failing at even the simplest tasks he was given.” In Asia, Fredo is often compared to a “black sheep” in the family. They display similar patterns of behavior and end up as a disgrace to the family. They are known as trouble makers, often left out, branded as outcasts because they choose to do other things than live up to their parents’ standards.

A Fredo in the family business is likely to be the least capable amongst siblings. So when the family patriarch coddles him and looks the other way, he will do whatever possible means to take advantage of the family business for personal gain. Like many family businesses with Fredos working, their presence in the business poses a serious hindrance to the enterprise. In a 2012 study by Kidwell, Kellermanns, Eddleston, they revealed that approximately one-third of family businesses admit to having a family employee who is an impediment to the business and only has a job because he or she is family. What are the most common traits of a Fredo working in the family business?

I have listed a handful of attributes below so family members are aware of the potential dangers that lie ahead.

Fredos can be any or all of the following:

  • They are irresponsible and consistently perform poorly in the family business.
  • They disrupt the work of colleagues including business decisions initiated by family members.
  • They strongly resent their parents especially with the way they were treated when they were young
  • They are naturally demanding and expect parents to support them, especially when they experience setbacks or misfortunes. They misuse company resources and continue to commit conflict of interest.
  • They are selfish, quick to blame others except themselves.
  • They have no sense of responsibility nor accountability.
  • To compensate for their failure, they usually engage in get-rich quick schemes at the expense of the parents’ (and the business’) financial support.

In dozens of family businesses in Asia where I was asked to intervene, I would always come across “Fredos,” either male or female, responsible for causing unnecessary pain and conflict in the family and the business. In Mario Puzo’s The Godfather novel, Fredo nearly destroyed the first and second generations of the Corleone dynasty.

To be continued…

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