Good communication with fellow employees is key to getting work done; in this situation, it's the key to remaining employed.
I’m currently a senior-level administrator. It’s a good job, but
I feel uncomfortable because my manager hired his daughter as a junior
administrator. She’s not the worst worker I’ve ever seen, but the problem
is that she does what she wants—not what I assign. She screws up once
in a while, too. I feel that management wants to get her more involved
and to give her more responsibilities.
Should I be quiet about what I think about
her work and give her special access to system resources to please my
manager or should I be more sincere and tell my manager about her lack
of interest in work and clarify what level of skills it takes to become
a real systems administrator?
—Name withheld by request
As usual, I have to start out with a few questions. First, is this a
permanent position for the daughter—or is this, say, a summer internship?
The latter is fairly common in many organizations—someone in senior management
brings their college kids in for the summer to get a taste of the business.
Although this can still be a ticklish situation, the expectations are
usually low and there’s a built-in end date.
This doesn’t sound like it’s your situation, however. In this case, I’d
say that communication is going to be the key element. For example, did
your boss tell you in advance that he was going to hire his daughter and
put her under your supervision? Was this a regular opening that other
candidates were competing for or did he just bring her in on his own say-so?
On her first day of work, did he bring her to your department or did she
just show up? How did he communicate this new hire to you? He must have
said something. Was it, “Just treat her like any other employee,” or “This
is my daughter, my pride and joy—make sure she does OK”?
These questions are intended to help you grasp the overall picture. He
could want her to get a picture of “real life,” where people do screw
up and have to face the consequences, in which case you’re the independent
assessor, the bad guy. On the other hand, he may truly believe that she’s
a talented and worthwhile employee; your role is to nurture and support
her as you would any other employee.
I agree with Greg
that it was incredibly insensitive for your boss to put you in this situation,
especially if he didn’t involve you in the process or give you any guidance.
However, it’s probably you that makes this situation comply with company
policy. Many companies that have anti-nepotism rules specify that two
relatives can’t work for the same supervisor. Because you’re between the
father and the daughter, they’re probably in compliance, technically.
So what do you do? First, as Greg says, play it by the book. Treat all
of your employees with the respect they deserve: giving direction, guidance,
correction when necessary, and support at all times. Be as inclusive as
you can so that your other employees don’t perceive an, “Oh, she’s special,”
attitude from you. This type of situation can really affect the performance
of the entire team.
As I said, communication is the key. I know that when I was a supervisor,
I would have regular conversations with my manager about the people who
worked for me—not to complain or whine, but to keep my boss apprised of
any superstars, marginal performers and general all-around good team workers.
I advise you to start or continue these types of informal discussions
with your boss. It’s important to do this under any circumstances, but
more so here. In many cases, your boss’ only information about your department
and your employees comes from you. Most employees wouldn’t go over their
supervisor’s head to talk to the upper-level boss unless there was a serious
problem. In this case, however, there’s a perfectly legitimate reason
for one of your employees to talk to your boss on a regular basis. Just
make sure that it’s not his only source of information.
Your best hope is that this isn’t a long-term situation. Perhaps suggesting
that she be promoted to some other department would be a good idea! But
watch out that she doesn’t get promoted into your job. It’s a mighty thin
tightrope, and you’re working without a net. Good luck!
Steve Crandall, MCSE, is a principal of ChangeOverTime, a technology consulting firm in Cleveland, Ohio, that specializes in small business and non-profit organizations. He's also assistant professor of Information Technology
at Myers College and a contributing writer for Microsoft Certified Professional Magazine.