Nepotism can create resentment between peers

Dear Joan:
I would guess that the problem that I am experiencing at work is not too uncommon within the atmosphere of a family owned business. I suffer from the effects of lazy son-in-law syndrome. The sales division of the company that I work for consists of two sales reps (myself and one other) and an inside support person, "Mr. Dolittle."

This support person, the owner's son-in-law, not only accomplishes less than one hours work each day, but also manages to hinder my productivity with his "I could care less" attitude. My problem is that I find Mr. Dolittle impossible to approach about his attitude. I do not wish to bring the owner into it because I believe that it is unlikely that he would reassign or fire his freeloading son-in-law as a result of my objections. He would most likely give Mr. Dolittle a kick in the rear and return him to his position, causing serious friction between me and Mr. Dolittle. Any advice?

You’re in a sticky situation...there's no doubt about that. Before you take any action, you need to examine the subtle politics and relationships in this situation.

First, assess the value you bring to the company. Have your sales been good? Are your customer relationships solid? Does the owner appreciate the results you've had? If you left, would it hurt the business?

If you have a good record of results the owner is more likely to listen to your concerns. If your productivity isn't great, you won't have much leverage in this situation.

Do you get along with everyone else in the company? If you have healthy relationships with co-workers, the owner is more likely to suspect the son-in-law is the one with the problem.

Does the other sales rep share your concerns? If the owner hears about this problem he's likely to call in the other sales rep to see if he or she sees it the way you do. If you're the only one who's got a problem with the son-in-law, the owner is likely to write it off as a personality conflict (guess who's likely to lose that battle?).

A big part of this equation has to do with how objectively the owner views his son-in-law. I've seen otherwise good leaders who were unable to see the truth about destructive family members. They were utterly blinded by their family relationship. If you suspect the owner will favor family over facts, save your breath.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
About Joan Lloyd
Joan Lloyd & Associates provide
FREE subscription to receive Joan's article by email

Email Joan to submit your question for consideration for publication, request permission to reprint an article for distribution, or for information about carrying Joan Lloyd's weekly column in your publication, or on your Internet or Intranet site. Visit to search an archive of more than 1700 of Joan's articles.
© Joan Lloyd & Associates, Inc.