He ain't lazy, he's my brother — and other worker pitfalls

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Fair Exchange

Q. My boss’s brother doesn't get much work done and he creates problems that I have to fix, and I think he is paid more than me. How can I make my boss see how unfair this is?

A. When the business owner’s family and friends work alongside unrelated employees there is a very good chance there will be problems. That’s what makes this situation such a natural storyline for movies and TV shows.

Unless you want some drama, I would advise you to tread carefully.

Never go against the family. If you approach your boss directly about his brother he will probably defend his brother and get a little angry with you. He may be aware of the problem but doesn’t know how to handle it. If he is unaware, making a point of telling him may not sit well with him. It may feel very unfair, but you won’t do yourself any good to question your boss about his brother’s work or pay.

Don’t make assumptions about anyone’s pay. The boss’s brother may or may not be paid more that you. Unless you have seen his paycheck I wouldn’t assume anything about his pay. During a long career I have seen a lot of employees get in a huff about what they assume another employee is paid, and 99.9 percent of the time they were way off the mark.

It is possible the boss’s brother is paid high for the work he does, but it is just as likely he is paid low. When people employ their friends or relatives, they may need to hire cheap labor and assume a friend or relative will accept low pay to get the business going.

Just say no. Co-workers should help each other when a little help will keep the work moving. But if the help flows in one direction, or a co-worker is interrupting you on a regular basis and your own work is falling behind, then you have a right to say no. You can tell a needy co-worker that you need to get X, Y and Z done and if you have any time left then you will be happy to give a helping hand.

Keep the boss informed of what you do. If your main concern is that the boss knows about the extra work you do, use a little finesse and don’t highlight what someone else isn’t doing.

Here’s how: Give the boss a regular report that summarizes the status of your work. Weekly, if not daily, your boss should talk with you about your work assignments and check on your progress. Make it easy for him by providing a status report that shows work completed; work in progress; problems encountered and fixed; questions or problems in need of his attention; and assistance provided to co-workers.

Keep it simple. You don’t need more than a clipboard with a couple of sheets of paper. If you have access to a computer you can create a simple status form in whatever software you like. When you give your boss your first status report let him know you just want to make sure you are staying on top of things and want to keep him updated. No need for paragraphs or sentences on your report; just use the company shorthand and keep your comments brief. For example: “on track ... completed to specs ... problem with XYZ ... waiting for ….”

Summary: Keep your focus on what you can control — your own job and the boss’s opinion of you. Give time a chance to work. Eventually the boss’s brother will either improve or prove he can’t do the job. Managing a business that involves family members working alongside regular employees is one of the most difficult things to do. If you make the boss’s job a little easier, let’s hope it pays off for you in the long run.

Virginia Detweiler is a human resources consultant and has taught business and management at Walla Walla Community College’s Business and Professional Development Program and at Walla Walla University. Questions for her columns can be submitted to her email address at wwcomplady@gmail.com. Those used will be edited to remove information that would identify the sender. She also can be reached at 509-529-1910.

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