Boss’s Husband Plays Bodyguard!

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about rude body guard:

The boss’s (president) husband has been with the company as bookkeeper for 18 months. He’s an ok guy but more and more he appears to be checking on our whereabouts, questioning our work. He’s rude when he needs information and makes a few unsavory comments. He acts like the boss’s bodyguard and we feel she is unaccessable now. He’s not the boss.

I’m a vice president and administrative director. I am afraid his way with my employees will cause me to lose excellent people. We’ve been coworkers for 15 years. The boss and I share our hobby out of work. Do I approach him first? I hate to do what he does and go running to the boss. Thanks for your time.

Signed, Spied on

Dear Spied on:

A typical Organizational Chart shows lines of reporting. In your case, The PRESIDENT is the top dog, then the Vice-Presidents follow. You in this case are not only a VP but also Administrative Director. We will look at this as though the “Bookkeeper” is not a VP for now and reports directly to the President (unless he is a VP and there is someone else he reports to). First look at the reporting structure before you speak with the Bookkeeper. As Administrative Director you would no doubt be the main reporting entity for most of your colleagues unless otherwise designated.

Not knowing the size of your organization, but recognizing that the PRESIDENT hired her husband as the Bookkeeper, regardless of the size then the President may have trust issues that have developed over time. Were there problems prior to the 18 months that convinced the PRESIDENT to lose faith and trust in anyone in particular? Did the last bookkeeper have issues with any staff members that might have encouraged her to hire family? They are married and have a relationship that no doubt includes trust. Look at the 18 months.Second, take into consideration that you are a VP and you do have a responsibility to your President and the organization. The co-workers who have longevity there, are they good for the organization and the mission you all have together?

Are there one or two that may give the bookkeeper (bodyguard) merit to question their work ethics, productivity, etc? Separate the rudeness for the moment.

a) If yes, a human resource person should be made aware of them, or these specific not so great workers’ supervisors should take note and try to address the issues, then the Bookkeeper may go back to the books.

b) If yes, and there is no one else to attend to any potential issues, who does it default to? That person should again take note and address the issues.

c) If NO, and everyone is a good worker and is evaluated regularly, consider this as one of the items to discuss about the bookkeeper when you do go to the President. d) If NO, and all are good, have you discussed issues and problems of workplace frustration as a team at meetings? This would be helpful, especially if you do not have human resource staff. If you do have meetings, great, the issues and how you propose the problems to be worked out are things the HR or President need to hear.Which brings me to the third and final thoughts to consider.

The Bookkeeper and President are married – keep it in mind, but do not let it cloud any wise decision-making. The team would benefit from an approach as it sounds (definitely weigh in any troublemakers, include your self, be honest and fair as you think about what may be contributing to Bookkeeper’s fears). The President wants a successful organization with a team that helps her grow and flourish financially and professionally, this means keeping a good team! Depending on some of the variables mentioned, reporting structure, size of organization, an existing policy for human resource issues, and a fair review of the situation, a meeting with the President may be on the agenda ONLY AFTER you carefully consider all facts.

FIRST my suggestion would be to set a time with Bookkeeper and give him the feedback first, he will most likely be receptive, as he will not want you to be complaining to the President about his style. Show him the benefits of a team that is working hard toward the common goal, and I’d hope that it is a win-win for all, See if it works too. If not, then consider option two, go to the President but only after you’ve tried to resolve the problem first. Talk to her candidly and support your facts. Related to this: try not to approach any boss on issues like this during the hobby time.

Good luck. Kamila Cooprider, Guest Respondent with International Corporate Experience

P.S. Probably also what is needed are regular staff meetings in which those at the top and also in various work groups (depending on the size of the company) address an agenda with such questions as: How well are we working together? What is going well and deserves applause? What do we need less and more of? What frustrates morale? What do we need to do to help make each others’ jobs more effective, easier, satisfying, and even more fun? Think of staff meetings as skull sessions in which the team reviews what has been working well and what might they do to be more effective doing so together. And don’t exclude the cheerleaders from the skull sessions. Does this make sense? If so, helping the boss see herself as a coach who establishes a habit of skull sessions might be something that you can do. Transforming a work group to a team and a workplace into a big team is an on-going process of candid and courageous communication.We wish the best to you and those with whom you work and invite a note on what you elect to do and a report on what works and/or does not. Our WEGO signature symbolizes the spirit of a collaborative work system.

William Gorden