How To Handle Rude Demands of Boss’s Wife

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about boss’ wife:

My boss’s wife calls me and emails me demanding help with time sensitive tasks and expects me to prioritize them above the tasks I do for the firm. I wouldn’t mind doing them so much if she were at all nice to me, but she is condescending and rude. She doesn’t have a job so obviously she has the time to do it herself, and it’s certainly not like she’s asking me to do things she couldn’t do herself. For example she will call me to send a car to pick her up RIGHT NOW because it’s raining, which is often not possible right away. Then, she’ll tell me after I managed to secure a car that she got a cab and I need to cancel the car. My boss is aware of her requests and seems to think it’s cute or funny. My manager knows it is happening and thinks it’s not right but nobody is willing to broach the subject with my boss. Can I tell his wife no? I’m to a point that it’s demoralizing.

Signed, Demoralized About Demands By Wife of Boss

Dear Demoralized About Demands By Wife of Boss:

The key to all of this is if your boss owns the company and thus can require you to assist his family. If he can require it and he wants you to make providing services to his wife a priority activity, I’d say you probably will be better off just accepting it as part of your job. She is essentially an off-site boss. However, there may be a couple of things for you to consider about how to manage the requests or their impact on you a bit better.

1. Make sure you let your supervisor know when you have a request from the wife. Send him an email so you will have documentation. Write the email in a way that doesn’t appear to be complaining. Just say you are letting him know that you have a request to do so and so. If you are working on another project, let him know that work will be delayed about an hour or whatever the time frame is. Then, when your assistance to the boss’s wife is done, write to your supervisor and let him or her know you’ve taken care of it. Tell your supervisor that you are going to start doing that as a way to make sure he or she is kept informed, in case there is ever a question about how you spend your time.

2. Verify with your supervisor how you are doing otherwise. Again, without complaining, let him know you want to do well and will make every effort to keep interruption time to a minimum. (I don’t think you ought to strain yourself to do that when the wife interrupts you, but it’s a good thing to say!) Those two things will at least keep you from being evaluated unfairly if you are not able to get something done on time due to interruptions.

3.This suggestion is up to you and may be too conciliatory to the boss’s wife for your tastes! She may be demanding because she is a mean-spirited person. OR, she may be demanding because she feels you are not assisting her as she wants. Consider her a priority customer. If she was paying you directly for all that you do, you would sound happy to help her, ask her what more you could do and even look for ways to provide extra service. IF working for her is part of your job, you may find that you can at least increase the pleasantness or reduce unpleasantness by treating her in the way she obviously wants to be treated–with deference. You may feel you can’t do that. But, at least you should keep the customer concept, since if she isn’t happy your boss won’t be happy! All of this is based on the assumption that there is no one higher than your boss. If there is, that presents a different picture entirely, since having you do things for the wife would be unethical and inappropriate. If that’s the case you need to go to HR or higher in the company to get advice or to complain.

The bottom line is that you can’t require the boss’s wife to be courteous and you can’t ask him to ask her to treat you better. So, as long as the boss is aware of the tasks you do and seems happy that you do them, you will probably find it necessary to accomplish the tasks to the best of your ability. But, keep your own supervisor fully informed about everything that happens.That doesn’t provide you with a way to make the demands easier to handle. But, perhaps you can find a way to work around and through them, so it won’t ruin the rest of your work. Best wishes with this challenging situation. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know how you handled it and the results.

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.