Question: Our boss's wife was recently given a position in our department. She now works two levels below her husband, "Rick," who is the head of operations. This is clearly against the company's nepotism policy.
After several people complained, the human resources director said she would review the resumes of all applicants for the position. However, this hardly seems like the appropriate response for such a blatant policy violation. Rick's wife should be removed from the job.
Some of us feel that Rick's boss, the CEO, should be told about this problem, but we're worried about possible retribution. What would you suggest?
Answer: First, let me extend my deepest sympathy to the unlucky soul who is now expected to supervise the boss's wife. The impossibility of that task clearly illustrates why nepotism policies are necessary and must be enforced. When the informal power of an employee exceeds the formal power of the supervisor, the management structure simply doesn't work.
Whenever this woman makes a request, receives an assignment or has a performance review, her manager will be considering Rick's possible reaction. And no matter how competent or congenial she is, colleagues will inevitably resent her undue influence.
For all those reasons, Rick should be ordered to reverse this self-serving decision. Unfortunately, however, he may already have the CEO's approval, since only an idiot would hire his wife without first consulting his boss.
On the other hand, if Rick has managed to surreptitiously maneuver his wife onto the payroll, then the CEO deserves to know. Given the risks involved, this may be one time when an anonymous note would be the smartest strategy.
If you decide to go that route, do not use a company computer to create or transmit the message, since that could leave an electronic trail. Present the facts in a calm, businesslike manner, indicating that many employees are upset about this decision. After that, you will just have to wait and see what happens.
Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach. Get free coaching tips at www.yourofficecoach.com