Boss’s Daughter Causes Me Problems

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about an owner’s daughter: I love my job, but dislike working with her as she tells only one side of the story to her parents.

I accepted a job working in the same place as my husband. I am in a management position. He manages the outside side of the business, I manage the office. Shortly after arriving the boss’s daughter, who has some “personality” issues, was hired full time. She doesn’t have a whole lot of gumption; however, she insists you don’t know her. She is chummy with everyone but me and I find myself constantly frustrated with how easily she plays her parents in regards to “sickness” co-workers etc.

I love my job, but dislike working with her as she tells only one side of the story to her parents. She has never accepted me. I am in a new town, where no one knows me. I have had an exemplary work record with no issues. I am just wondering at what point you throw in the towel. Do parents see children for what they are? She has 1/3 or less the workload of other co-workers yet interjects herself into meeting everyone coming in the door and in everyone’s questions or projects even though she doesn’t know anything about any of them. Several months ago she sent an e-mail to her mother and accidentally sent it to a group list that included family, random people at another business owned by the owner and other coworkers. It discussed who could use her computer and who was nice and why other people (which was only me) weren’t allowed to wit the “you know why…” response. Do you have any advice? I have never been in such an odd predicament. I have never worked somewhere before where I wasn’t respected or liked by my co-workers.

Signed, Frustrated and At Wit’s End

Dear¬†Frustrated and At Wit’s End:

We hear from many people who are frustrated at the special treatment given by owners of businesses to their relatives, especially their adult children. I don’t think there is much anyone will ever be able to do about that, because sympathy and concern for one’s children will probably always outweigh the preferences of non-family employees. On the other hand, it seems like a shame to quit a good paying job you normally would like, just because of one person. Another thing to consider is that often adult children with personality issues don’t last in a job anyway. Her position there may not last forever, no matter how stable it appears now.

If the daughter is the only one you are having serious conflict with, perhaps you can find a way to simply tolerate her, for the sake of keeping a job that allows you to work near your husband. Your concerns seem to mostly involve dislike for her and her manipulations. You don’t mention that she has done things to sabotage your work or keep you from getting your other work done. Even her silly email didn’t seem to be a major affront, just evidence to everyone that she is immature and a difficult person to deal with. You probably got some sympathy out of that! If you think her attitude is going to cause you to get fired, you will need to be in a more defensive mode. But, even for the sake of children most employers don’t want to fire an effective manager.

I think your best approach, given the information here, is to focus on your overall effectiveness with the other employees, while being civil to the owner’s daughter. I often mention the three ways to develop influence: Be credible, be valuable and communicate effectively. If you put your efforts into those three areas, you will gain enough support from others that your position will be solid.This may sound crass to some, but I have seen it be the case in many businesses: Often an adult child in that situation is no different than if the owners brought a pet to work. They know the pet is in the way, but they haven’t got anyplace else to keep it during the daytime and employees simply learn to work around it. That kind of tolerance is not so easy when you’re talking about a person rather than a pet, but the concept applies. When the owners think their child is hurting business, they might do something.

But, until that happens, I think you can figure you either have to quit and let them know why (which probably won’t make a difference and you’ll be out of a job until you find another one) or you will find a way to work through it and outlast her. If you have someplace better to go, quitting may be worthwhile. If not, try developing a way to deal with the problem employee/daughter while putting most of your efforts into strengthening your relationship with other employees and with the owners of the business.Best wishes to you. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what happens.

******************* Dr. Gorden has this advice, which varies a bit from mine–but adds very good perspectives. Family businesses often pose difficult issues for non-family employees, as you are now experiencing. You ask: How long is it before you throw in the towel? Only you can answer your question. Probably you know it is wisest that you should stick with your office manager job until you have a solid offer of another. Yours is a particularly difficult situation because both you and your husband work for the same company and you don’t want to make a “stink” with the owner’s daughter that could jeopardize his job. Can you stick it out until you find another job?

Yes, you can and should. Don’t allow annoyance with the daughter provoke you to resign before you find another job. I assume you are supposed to be the boss of the office staff and that includes the owner’s daughter? What would you do with this individual if she were not the owner’s daughter? You probably would spell a job description to her, including load and hours she should work, and give her a probation period to prove she should be a permanent employee. But you can’t do that because she is the owner’s daughter. Right? So you must determine if you want to confront this family member (and that can’t help but entail confronting the owners too) or work around her poor performance until you get another job. In short your decision is a “flight or fight” situation governed by the realization that you don’t want to jeopardize your husband’s job. If you choose to fight her, that need not be a knock down knock out fight.

You are a mature individual with a good record who now is in a position you love except for this frustrating family member. You have a sense of what is fair and what is required if this family business is to succeed. You can see the big picture; to make it a business that pleases its customers and that is best achieved when every employee works together as a team.

Your challenge is to clarify and to engage this daughter and owner in that. You have a voice and I gather that so far you have bit your tongue. Clarification of what is this daughter’s role can begin with face to face conversation between you and her, and if she doesn’t respond positively it can escalate to a three-way meeting with her, her owner parents, and you. This “if and how” to engage and confront her should not be impetuous or made in frustration. Take time to log what is not good performance and to outline what you think is fair.

Such a confrontation, of course, is a direct approach, and it is not a quick fix, one time solution. An indirect approach, that might be more effective and determinant to whether or not you choose to leave, is a quality improvement lean management approach. By this I mean focus on a quality improvement and money saving/making effort for this company.

Almost every business, including family business, can improve on ways to better serve its customers by improving its products and quality. Concurrently almost every business can save money and make more money by cutting wasted supplies, wasted, time, wasted energy and wasted money on the one hand and finding ways to innovate on the other.Thinking and acting solo; that is what I can do; is important but not as effective as is a company-wide, team-wide effort. It is amazing and exciting when natural work groups become caught up in quality improvement, waste cutting, and money saving/making efforts.You might think through what you would do if you owned this company, how you would bring, rather than knock, heads together to create a customer-friendly, coworker-engaged, lean-managed workplace-wide thriving enterprise.

Such an effort is meant to boost the “wego” of all those of you who have a stake in your workplace. If this indirect approach could capture your imagination and in turn you could persuade the owners of your company of its value, I predict the problem daughter would be resolved.Might both the direct and indirect approach speak to your Wits End? Or might they stir an even more creative approach to what is a very annoying situation for you? Can you apply both or either of these approaches to your situation that are encapsulated in my signature sentence: Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS?

Tina Lewis Rowe