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.
There’s a sense of helplessness
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.
There are some strategies that work
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. Here are two:
For lazy relatives: Do your job – and do it exceptionally well. While you may not see it, bosses are likely very aware of their kids’ work habits as they compare to those of other employees. Interesting (and positive) things can start to happen when bosses perceive that they are receiving greater loyalty from the non-relatives than from the relatives.
For overly-aggressive relatives: These are often people feeling intense pressure from Mom or Dad to perform at very unrealistic levels. This pressure can often cause micromanaging, nitpicking, exploding, badgering, etc.
Try this: Rather than getting annoyed by their behavior – champion it. Support their efforts at achieving perfection, and let them know that you, like they, are interested in getting things done to high standards. Remember, these may be people who are feeling quite insecure about their abilities and achievements. They may be looking for a little support, and will appreciate your efforts. It can be tough to do because of their sometimes challenging personalities, but it’s worth a try!