Coworker from Hell #11: The Boss’s Child


So one of your coworkers is the boss’s son – or daughter – or favorite nephew. Now, in the vast majority of cases, this isn’t a bad thing. Research suggests that relatives of the boss are most often considered to have the ideal traits of a co-worker – motivated, productive, cooperative, consultative, honest and friendly. Unfortunately, however, there are times when a relative abuses the relationship, and that’s when things get uncomfortable.

I’ve had a number of emails asking if there are any effective strategies for dealing with nepotism – employees who are treated preferentially because of being related to the boss. The stories people have shared have ranged from chronic laziness to extreme power-trips. The greatest frustration is the sense of helplessness – knowing that the offending coworker apparently has the ultimate trump card.

Let’s start with the bad news: The old saw is true – blood is thicker than water. Particularly when it comes to sons and daughters, bosses will seemingly forgive, overlook, and rationalize just about everything. This means that your options, short of finding employment elsewhere, are severely limited. The good news is that there are some strategies which can occasionally be effective:

For the lazy relative: Do your job – and do it exceptionally well. While you may not see it, your boss is likely very aware of his son or daughter’s work habits as they compare to those of other employees. Interesting (and positive) things can start to happen when the boss perceives that he’s receiving greater loyalty from the non-relative than from the relative.

For the overly aggressive relative: This could be someone who is feeling intense pressure from Mom or Dad to perform at very unrealistic levels. This pressure can often cause the son/daughter to micromanage, nitpick, explode, badger, etc. Try this: Rather than getting annoyed by his behavior – champion it. Support his efforts at achieving perfection, and let him know that you, like he, are interested in getting things done to his high standards. Remember, this is someone who may be feeling quite insecure about his abilities and achievement. He may be looking for a little support, and will appreciate your efforts. It can be tough to do because of his sometimes challenging personality, but it’s worth a try!

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