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nine to five
THE QUESTION

I manage a small team. My boss keeps giving job openings on my team to his family members who are underqualified. It requires a lot of additional hours of training and effort to manage. These family members never work as hard as the people I’ve recruited myself. Efforts to discipline or fire underperforming family members backfire, as my boss wants me to keep them employed. How can I make my boss realize that this is hurting his business?

THE FIRST ANSWER

Jasmine Leong, people and culture lead, StoryTap, Vancouver

Nepotism is an incredibly sensitive topic and a difficult situation to navigate for yourself and for others in the organization. It sounds like the overall goal should be to objectively prove that it is not in the business’s best interest to invest in these team members.

Firstly, I’d recommend documenting everything. Doing this objectively means you must be prepared with data. For example, if onboarding a new employee with the right skill set takes 26 hours, but hiring the family member took 72, then that is a data point you can present. You can also look to calculate how costly that is on an hourly basis, to detail the impact on the business.

If you have goals, objectives and key results or key performance indicators that you’re able to point to as well, you should be able to easily differentiate and identify underperformers.

If your company is set up to do so, I would also recommend 360-degree feedback sessions, which help gather anonymous feedback on performance from peers, leaders and other cross-functional stakeholders.

Favouritism hurts company culture. Explaining how this affects engagement and overall performance can also be an angle. If you choose to go down this route, I would point to engagement survey comments or data, as well as any feedback you’re able to provide.

At the end of the day, while presenting your findings, it’s good to remind your leader that you truly want to do what’s best for the company.

THE SECOND ANSWER

Keira Torkko, chief people officer, Assent Compliance Inc., Ottawa

Your boss may not realize the financial impact this is having on his business, not to mention the impacts on other team members and your own motivation. Top performers lose motivation when others aren’t performing at their level – and when they don’t see any action taken to change this.

Can you find a way to quantify and cost out the lost time because of additional training, extra management effort, client impacts (lost clients?) or time spent redoing work? Money talks. Most managers are assessed on financial performance, so can you make your case relevant to something meaningful to your boss? Tie your puzzles to the larger company objectives.

Does your boss respond to data and analytics? Have you set clear performance metrics for roles and team members that can show variances against the baseline? If yes, you can then conduct a data-driven review of your team’s strengths and weaknesses, backed up with performance data, so it does not appear that you are targeting individuals – particularly those he may be related to.

Do you have an HR team you can engage for support on best practices? If so, work with this team to ensure you have a solid selection process based on the skills and experience you are looking for, and avoid any possible conflict of interest. Use rating scales and engage others in the selection process.

Focus on what you can control. Trust is crucial to a successful working relationship, but it goes both ways. Your boss should trust you to make the best decisions for your team. If you aren’t able to do that, there is perhaps a different conversation to be had.

Have a question for our experts? Send an e-mail to NineToFive@globeandmail.com with ‘Nine to Five’ in the subject line. Emails without the correct subject line may not be answered.

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