Boss’s Son Isn’t Working Out

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about family business: The Boss asked my husband to help educate his son in the business, but the boss does not know that the son is not doing the job that he should be doing.

My husband has worked very hard for a family owned business. The owner’s son started working full time 1 1/2 years ago, and is failing, even the boss’s wife told my husband they did not want the son to fail. Well, the son is failing. My husband is stuck in the middle between trying to run the company for the boss and trying to make the son look good. Yesterday the boss told my husband that the Sales Mgr. position failing does not look good for him. Now my husband has been “deflated” by that comment. (My husband has no self worth.) He feels the weight of the whole world, and can’t gather the strength to have a professional conversation about this matter. The Boss asked my husband to help educate his son in the business, but the boss does not know that the son is not doing the job that he should be doing.

Signed, Worried for My Husband

Dear Worried for My Husband:

This certainly could be a bad situation to be caught in. However, your husband has apparently had a position of trust for some time and is not at a low level in the organization. That would indicate he is valuable to the company and is not likely to be fired because the boss’s son doesn’t do well. However, it also would indicate that he could risk having an honest talk with the boss to let him know what he has tried to do to help the son and what the results have been.You don’t say whether your husband is a skilled job coach or trainer, so it could be that the son has needed more or better training than he has received. Or, it could be that the boss’s son wants to do well and has received the right level of training but for some reason is still having trouble. On the other hand, you say that the son isn’t doing the job he was hired to do, which could just indicate disinterest.

So, it seems your husband has few options. He either keeps all of this to himself and looks bad because of it, or he talks to the boss. If he does talk to the boss, surely his history of hard work will give him credibility. If he decides to talk to the boss, it would be helpful for your husband to show some record of how much work he has done to try to train the son and what he has done when the son has made mistakes or failed to do good work. That might help the boss get a better picture of what has happened. He might also ask the boss if he has ideas for how to correct the problems the son is having. Apparently the boss has talked to your husband about it already. If your husband failed to speak up then, it might be difficult to do so now, but it can be done. He can say, “I’ve thought a lot about the situation and have some other things I want to add to what I said yesterday.”I wish there was some easy solution to this, but I don’t think there is. Your husband will have to talk about this at some time. He may have been better off making frequent, honest reports all along. But, it’s not too late to be honest now. Best wishes to both of you. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what happens.

Tina Lewis Rowe