Q.: Our boss’s wife was recently given a position in our department. She now works two levels below her husband, “Rick,” who is the head of operations. This is clearly against the company’s nepotism policy, which states that no one shall have any supervisory authority over a family member.
After several people complained, the human resources director said she would review the resumes of all applicants for the position. However, this hardly seems like the appropriate response for such a blatant policy violation. Rick’s wife should just be removed from the job.
Some of us feel that Rick’s boss, the CEO, should be told about this problem, but we’re worried about possible retribution. What would you suggest?
A.: First, let me extend my deepest sympathy to the unlucky soul who is now expected to supervise the boss’s wife. The impossibility of that task clearly illustrates why nepotism policies are necessary and must be enforced. When the informal power of an employee exceeds the formal power of the supervisor, the management structure simply doesn’t work.
Under these circumstances, objective decision-making becomes impossible. Whenever this woman makes a request, receives an assignment, or has a performance review, her manager will be considering Rick’s possible reaction. And no matter how competent or congenial she is, colleagues will inevitably resent her undue influence.
For all those reasons, Rick should be ordered to reverse this self-serving decision. Unfortunately, however, he may already have the CEO’s approval, since only an idiot would hire his wife without first consulting his boss. That would certainly explain your HR director’s feeble response to complaints.
On the other hand, if Rick has managed to surreptitiously maneuver his wife onto the payroll, then the CEO deserves to know. Given the risks involved in ratting out your boss, this may be one time when an anonymous note would be the smartest strategy.
If you decide to go that route, do not use a company computer to create or transmit the message, since that could leave an electronic trail. Present the facts in a calm, businesslike manner, indicating that many employees are upset about this decision. After that, you will just have to wait and see what happens.
Q: The small business where I work has some longtime employees who don’t want to work very hard. When newcomers attempt to improve productivity, the slackers try to run them off by verbally harassing them and manipulating the schedule so that they always get the worst shift.
Because of the bullies, our turnover is astronomical. To make it worse, the owner ignores any complaints because these guys are his friends. I’m tired of losing one great co-worker after another, but I can’t see how to stop this.
A: Sadly, your feelings of helplessness are probably realistic. In a small, privately owned company, the owner has almost complete power. By disregarding complaints, your boss has clearly shown that he values his buddies more than his business. You would be wise to start developing an escape plan, because such a poorly managed company may not be around for long.
Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach and the author of “Secrets to Winning at Office Politics.” Send in questions and get free coaching tips at http://www.yourofficecoach.com, or follow her on Twitter officecoach.