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I work for a small family business which consists of four employees. My father co-owns the business with another developer who is not related to us. I am a developer who reports to the co-owner. My father and my brother-in-law deal with the admin side of the business.

As a developer working for a small business, I've had to learn lots of languages, platforms and frameworks, and provide software support for a number of different projects. I'm also expected to travel a lot, which could be anywhere in the UK at short notice. I particularly dislike this aspect of my job as it is very inconvenient with regard to taking care of my young daughter.

My brother-in-law's job is to manage the other developer's and my calendars, send out and chase invoices, and do the general office admin work. He never has to travel, and frequently has free time in the office.

If I ever underperform or do not deliver a project on time, I can expect a stern reprimand. My brother-in-law is never in this position as he has no targets or expectations.

Since this is a family business, it was decided that we should earn the same salary out of some idea of fairness. We will also be given the same opportunity to buy into the business when my father retires. I believe I am marginally underpaid, while my brother-in-law is vastly overpaid. However, if I were to ask for more money, my brother-in-law would also get the same raise.

My problem is that I'm becoming envious of my brother-in-law, who earns the exact same salary as me for a vastly simpler job. For the record, I am not underestimating the amount, or difficulty of his work.

How do I bring up this issue with my boss/dad? Should I even bring it up? For the record I'm very unlikely to leave my job, on the whole it works for me.

16 Answers 16

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Your salary is between you and your employer. Someone else's salary is of no relevance. If you are being underpaid, you should negotiate your salary raise. However, your issue is evidently not about your salary, it is about your brother-in-law's salary being the same as yours.

Your family business' goal is to pay equal salary to you both. Your goal is to get paid more than your brother-in-law. Since these goals are mutually conflicting, it is impossible to satisfy both these goals at once. For your employment with this family business to continue, either side has to back down.

Evidently, when your dad and the co-owner made this policy of paying you both equally, you were either not consulted or outright ignored. It is unlikely that you would now be able to convince them to back down.

The other alternative is for you to back down, which is unlikely to happen since you feel so strongly about it. While you would probably be satisfied if you could work as much as your brother-in-law to earn the same salary, that is hardly a practical option in a 4-employee company. Hence, the only option left is for you to part ways with the company.

If taking this extreme step sounds absurd, you might want to reconsider your perspective. Here's a thought experiment for you:

Suppose your current monthly salary is $1000. Rather than your brother-in-law's salary being $1000, assume it is $200. Now, your brother has a mysterious well-wisher who gifts him $800 per month. However, your brother-in-law has vowed to never disclose this to anyone, and tells everyone that his salary is $1000.

I hope this helps you realise that you shouldn't lead your life based on what other people are doing. :)

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Jane S May 15 '18 at 23:07
  • Comments that were added after previously moving them to chat have been removed. If you want to keep discussing this, then I suggest you go to the chat room on this answer – Jane S May 19 '18 at 4:27
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As others have already said, your chances to negotiate a salary change are slim. The office policy is to provide everyone with the same salary, and you pining for more would probably lead to other problems down the road.

However, not everything is lost. Instead of going for a salary change, why not ask for some sort of compensation? Every time you go on a trip for your company, you could ask for some sort of one time bonus, according to how well you did your job. This way, you get some kind of gratification directly attached to your role that doesn't count as a salary raise, and you also justify your request by attaching it to some kind of performance evaluation, instead of just asking for more money.

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    Is there are particular reason why you’re forcing the Markdown formatting to put every sentence on its own line? The way Markdown formats paragraphs exists for a reason (it improves readability). – Konrad Rudolph May 14 '18 at 17:32
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    Instead of asking for some kind of bonus, the OP can also ask for free days. – BЈовић May 15 '18 at 6:42
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    @KonradRudolph I find it more readable this way, but feel free to propose an edit if you think it would be better formatted with less line breaks – BgrWorker May 15 '18 at 7:35
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    @BgrWorker FWIW, I don't. – Michael May 15 '18 at 9:05
  • @BgrWorker One sentence per line is rather bad for people with impaired seeing, ones that use screen readers or braille aids. So apart from being less readable for general public, it is also kinda discriminatory. – Mołot May 17 '18 at 12:18
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There's a very simple answer to this.

Overtime pay.

Working more than your 37.5 hours in the office gets you pro-rata for the extra hours. Working away from home gets you time and a quarter, or time and a half if it's less than 24 hours notice, plus a flat amount per night away. Driving time is included in your working time, of course.

Everyone still gets paid the same hourly rate, of course. But if anyone has to work extra hours, or has to hit the road and lose family time as a result, they get some kind of compensation for that. If your brother-in-law doesn't like that, then he can volunteer for heading off at a moment's notice. If he hasn't got the skills to do the job, there's his incentive to retrain for something more skilled.

  • I'm not acquainted with the regulations in the UK. It's possible that the OP, as a salaried employee, is not eligible for overtime pay. Alternately, it's possible that he is eligible, but the company (given its size) is choosing to ignore regulations. If so, pushing on this could result in very bad consequences for the company (and thus, presumably, for the family). I'm not saying it's not an option, but the reality may be more complicated. – RDFozz May 15 '18 at 15:24
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    @RDFozz In the UK, whether you get overtime is up to the company, and of course up to you whether you accept the contract or not. It's simply a case of changing the contract from "this is your nominal hours but you'll be expected to work extra as needed" to "this is your nominal hours and you'll get paid for extra as needed". I'd be surprised if it's very different elsewhere, because I don't know of any countries which have laws against hourly pay. (I can't even see how that would work.) – Graham May 15 '18 at 17:31
  • In the US, for salaried workers, there are two different statuses. An "exempt" employee is theoretically paid the same amount, regardless of how many (or how few) hours they actually work. A "non-exempt" employee is eligible for some sort of overtime pay. Never been too clear on the breakdown. As an IT worker, I have always assumed there would be some work outside normal hours (people don't like when the database server with all their customer info is unavailable during the business day so an upgrade can be installed). – RDFozz May 15 '18 at 17:56
  • @RDFozz While that's true, your response is regarding regulations. What Graham seems to be implying (correct me if I'm wrong), that OP can negotiate such a contract. Then the base pay will be equal, but the additional time and work that OP is putting into the company can be properly logged and compensated. Those regulations are a baseline requirement, but don't limit what a company can agree to pay. – Nate Diamond May 15 '18 at 19:21
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    @NateDiamond - My second comment was primarily a response to "I can't even see how that would work." That said, I do have to clarify that the US regs in question define who must be given overtime pay, not who can't be given overtime pay. Refusing to give a "non-exempt" salaried employee overtime pay is what gets a company in trouble. I agree, a regulation preventing a company from giving employees more money than they're required to would be unlikely :-). – RDFozz May 15 '18 at 19:35
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Decide whether you want/deserve/need a raise based on your contributions to the company, and if you think you do, ask for it, and support with facts. If you truly believe you are not being treated fairly for your skills and you NEED a different compensation, be prepared to go elsewhere.

Don't make this about the brother-in-law. Make it about YOU and YOUR skills. If bro gets a raise, so be it. That's honestly none of your business.

"I don't think my coworker deserves salary X":

  1. Is possible, and happens at, just about any employer
  2. Is frankly none of your business
  3. Reflects as much on the person saying it as on the target
  4. Is a statement that's often made without understanding the full picture of the other person's situation, contributions, etc.

Which brings us to the most significant point in your question: Are you actually upset about your own (minor?) underpaid status, or are you upset about your perception of your brother-in-law's overpaid status? If you're upset about your own status, do something about it. If you're upset about his status, get over it.

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    I see there was a downvote. Can whomever did that please explain? Is there an opportunity to improve the answer? – dwizum May 14 '18 at 14:11
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    Oh don't worry about it. I observed that answers from you, me and Mister Positive all got a single downvote each at almost the same time. Those were the only 3 answers on this question at the time. In other words, someone downvoted "just because", not because there was anything wrong with the answers. Your answer is a good and useful one. – Masked Man May 14 '18 at 17:13
  • Not too worried. Just curious! – dwizum May 14 '18 at 17:16
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    ... I didn't downvote, but I think all the answers saying his family is none of his business are extremely shortsighted. People have a sense of fairness and "get over it," is not a solution, it is denying that asker's perceived unfairness could possibly have any legitimacy, which it very well could. This is not just a business question per se, and may well be better suited to IPS. Actually, your whole answer isn't so much an answer as an indictment of the asker's character for having feelings that many people experience at one point or another. – ttbek May 16 '18 at 16:37
  • The OP posted on workplace, not IPS, so I gave the "business perspective" answer. The OP is not in a position to decide company policy, and being upset about something you can't change (BIL's salary) isn't going to get you a raise. Focusing on your own value in comparison to your own salary, however, IS something that can help motivate you to ask for or make a change. Worrying about the relative's salary isn't going to do anything but feed the problem (by further confusing the family/work relationship). – dwizum May 16 '18 at 17:08
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I see an inverse statement to ones already mentioned here; the issue isn't the equal pay, it's about the unequal work. That is to say, you've been assigned disproportionately more work compared to peers.

An alternative solution to the others proposed here, would be to request that some of your workloads (which are negatively impacting you) be reassigned to someone else.

Your question lacks details on the whys regarding travel (the whole point of a developer is so they develop software etc - if they're constantly moving that's time spent travelling, not developing), but if the travel doesn't require someone with development skills (IE product demo, sales pitch, pick/drop off of supplies, etc), it wouldn't be unreasonable to ask someone else take that up so you can focus primarily on development.

There might be other work that could be reasonably re-allocated. Before you consider jumping ship, however, it might be worth comparing your salary to current market rates for someone of your skills (it might be you're paid more than average already and thus, compared to the market overall, more favourable).

  • I was thinking childcare could be one of the job reassignments, the brother-in-law has to do childcare for overnight/ out of hours trips. – WendyG May 15 '18 at 12:10
  • @WendyG I am the only developer at my company (yes, I know, bus factor = 1). Most of my tasks, especially the time consuming ones, can't be allocated to anyone else because they don't have the skills or experience to do them. I work with one guy who has a good developer's brain, but he doesn't want to become a developer. Employees are not interchangeable when they don't have matching skills. – CJ Dennis May 17 '18 at 22:36
  • I said your brother in law could look after your kids when you are sent on an out of hours visit, what has that to do with interchangeable jobs? My sister couldn't do my java job either, but she can look after my kids. – WendyG May 18 '18 at 13:30
  • @CJDennis There are parts of my job my sister could do, site training visits for example, user documentation, first line support calls. Which I presume in such a small company you do a share of. – WendyG May 18 '18 at 13:31
  • @WendyG I am not the OP :-) – CJ Dennis May 18 '18 at 13:48
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If you were to broach the idea of changing the salaries independently, I think it's a good idea to think of the family business in the following way. This is how a friend of mine's family handles their business.

There are two elements to the business: ownership and salary. Ownership is always handled evenly, regardless of input: being a member of the family gives you automatically an ownership share (if you want in). Everyone gets a stock option at birth, basically.

Salary, however, is fair compensation for work done. That work is not even, and so salaries are not even. They're probably more forgiving than they would be on the open market, but they should reflect what a person is doing. Some family members work, some don't; the ones that do, get a salary commensurate with what they're doing, and what they'd be worth on the open market, and the others don't.

For those saying that it's not OP's business what their brother-in-law receives; that's true in a normal situation, but not in a family business. For one thing, OP will eventually be a co-owner; for another, if the brother in law is getting basically a 'gift', it's not particularly fair for him to get that gift and OP not get it. It's also a family environment in general, meaning that there will be stress from this kind of situation: OP will be frustrated by brother in law receiving unfairly high wages (as OP is), and it will come out in other family situations. This is something that is not normally a concern with two unrelated employees in a non-family corporation.

I would also, though, consider whether your brother-in-law actually receives above-grade pay. It's not uncommon for project managers and administrative staff to receive "more for less work" from a developer's point of view. They have management responsibilities, which naturally entail more pay.

I would see what similar jobs pay at other places, and use that to make your argument. Just don't be shocked if your brother in law's market rate is higher than you think it should be.

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Your issue is your envy. Now, your envy is not your companies problem; it is your family's problem.

So an answer to this has to be broken into two parts. The family problem, and the workspace problem.

First, I'll pretend there is no family involved, which can illuminate the situation.


You have a job where you are underpaid. As part of this job, you are also expected to be able to "buy in" to the business at some future date. This "buy in" option may be at lower than market rates, so may have some value.

In addition, as a future executive, how the company works right now is something of a concern. It has another employee whose performance is not matching their salary who also has "buy in" options.

Another problem is that your company has a policy to pay both positions the same money.

For your salary, the first question you should ask is if you have leverage. Is your compensation low enough that you can walk and get a better deal? Your pay is low; does the opportunity to buy-in later make up for it?

The second question is, do they have leverage? You can simply state you are no longer able to travel because of family demands. If you are that great a deal, will they be able to coerce you? Similarly, you can ramp down any overtime and only commit to more reasonable deadlines with lots of padding in case things don't go as planned, reducing your stress.

If they state they need you to get things done as fast and travel just as much, but cannot increase your base salary, state under what terms you would be willing to continue to travel and what terms you are wiling to do overtime. Then when giving estimates for tasks, give the slow and steady rate and how much time you can cut off that with how much overtime.

Without changing your base salary, this can permit higher compensation. This can be used to get around the policy that your two salaries are the same.

The separate problem is that your coworker isn't earning their keep. You can manage upwards and find a way to move more tasks over to this coworker that are harder and more solid in result. Rigorous QA is an important, hard and tedious task that someone with lots of free time could study up on, for example. You have resources being wasted on someone under-performing that you cannot fire; there are ways to solve this that don't involve firing the person in question.

If you are going to be an executive for your business, learning how to get more out of under-performing workers is important. Simply firing them is easier, but replacing them is a pain that can be avoided if you can just up their productivity. View the underperforming colleague as an opportunity to up your management chops.

Finally, note that your coworker seems to be in a supervisory role. One thing that managers value highly is supervision; they do that, and they like valuing what they do highly, and people supervising for them makes their lives easier. Your execution role may not be valued as highly as it is possible the head of the company doesn't know what it involves.

Alternatively, you may have the same problem; viewing your task as harder because you are familiar with it, while discounting the difficulties of supervision.


Family wise, you have a problem where the patriarch views the employment of the kids as patronage not as a job. They seem to be expected to contribute what they are capable of, and get back an even share.

Solving this problem is an interpersonal skills issue, and will depend on the dynamics of your family and piles of history that isn't appropriate to relay here.

You can try to get the patriarch to treat their position of equal salary as a fixed thing, and compromise on bonuses/overtime/travel/etc. Or some other wya to make the higher compensation of your role be "not salary". This avoids colliding with your patriarch head-on. You can justify it using market rates or anything else, but providing an "exit" so that the fixed position the patriarch took doesn't technically change you may be able to fix your issue without insulting your father's pride or sense of fairness.

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To me this is more of an interpersonal issue then an employment issue and dealing with this requires quite a bit of tact, but it is not impossible.

Above all else, you should define what your goals are. IMO, that should be that you should be paid fairly for your work. What anyone else is paid, in your current role, is not your business. So, it should not matter to you if your BIL is overpaid, forget that part of it.

Doing a bit of market research you should back up what an acceptable salary is for your duties, and yes as a traveler you should be paid more. Then approach dad with those numbers and be asked to be paid such.

One retort is that he cannot afford to pay both you and BIL that amount. You should respond with "it is not my responsibility what BIL is paid, however, I would like to be paid market rates".

There is a decent chance that you will be turned down or be given less than what you asked for. Does that then drive you to move onto another position? Only you can answer that. If you do decide to leave, then you can offer to help find your replacement. They might capitulate if your replacement would cost more than what you are asking for.

  • There's some small chance that if "he cannot afford to pay both you and BIL that amount." then he will decided to finally raise OP's pay without Bill's. – stannius May 14 '18 at 18:04
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Compared to some of the other answers I would like to add that I understand that this is a family business and you probably don't want to disappoint your father, but you are also running your own business, selling your labor for money.

One of the golden rules of business is that there are no friends in business, only business partners. Your dad stops being your dad the moment you step into the office, and in that situation you need to treat him as your employer, not your dad.

I know it may seem harsh, and you'll probably feel like you're being a dick, but you need to consider that if you could get just £5k more a year by switching, and you invested them, over 20 years at a very modest compound interest rate of just 4% you're leaving over 150k on the table.

That's several years worth of work, and 4% is easily achievable in the long run even if there are recessions. The actual return is more likely to actually be in the 6-8% range, and at 8% you'd be looking at 250k.

Compound interest is very powerful.

It also sounds extremely unlikely that you'll ever get a significant raise or career advancement in this company, whereas it'd be the norm anywhere else - especially in IT. If just a 5k raise nets you 150-250k in 20 years, imagine how big the difference would be if you could get a couple raises, then maybe a promotion to team leader 10 years down the line.

Do you realistically see this happening at this company? I don't think you do, else you wouldn't be so upset about a temporary perceived inequality.

If you can't make your father understand this, personally I think you should leave. He may get angry, but if he's a fair man, once he's had to go on the market for a replacemente and realizes how much he's been underpaying you, he'll get over it.

The important thing is not to make it personal (I'm leaving because you are paying him the same as me), just make your business case (I'm leaving because they are going to pay me a lot more and it makes more business sense for me).

  • Good answer. Thank you for expanding your comment to an answer. This answer doesn't just stop at "if you can't get a raise, find another job" but elaborates why. While the OP probably already knows this, it is useful for anyone else who runs into this question. – Masked Man May 15 '18 at 11:06
  • I guess he could, but there's a pretty large line between trying to get a better salary for yourself, and trying to get someone else fired. By what OP told us it also seems that he doesn't have that much influence over how the company is run. (At least on the "HR" side of things) – Demonblack May 16 '18 at 14:31
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The challenge here is the overlap between "family" and "business." From a business perspective, this doesn't make sense, and it's surprising that the business co-owner agreed to it. If you're intent on remedying the situation, the co-owner might be a potential ally, since the business he co-owns is presumably losing money from overpaying one employee, and might lose a presumably good employee (you) from underpayment.

However, this could make an already fraught family dynamic worse. It sounds like you don't have a particularly good relationship with either your brother-in-law or your father, since you haven't gone to them personally with your concerns. Fixing this means both a) your brother-in-law loses a cushy deal that he may feel he actually deserves and b) your father gets accused of playing favorites under the guise of "fairness."

A better solution might be to seek another job. If you are really underpaid, and a competent developer, a better job should be easy enough to find. And while there might be some initial tension around your decision, I think you'll ultimately get along better with your relatives if you aren't also trying to work with them. As far as eventually inheriting the company, this shouldn't make any difference to that, unless working for less than you're worth is explicitly part of the deal. (Note: If you can't find a better job, then your brother-in-law might not be the only one the company is carrying.)

  • +1 For mentioning inheriting. If the brother in law inherits one share, along with the daughter; that's two shares for them, double what one would presume the OP's share to be. It may well be the case that anyone else would not work there for too little, why would they; the OP has double the interest to work for peanuts - it's his company and it keeps the books looking greener. – Rob May 16 '18 at 6:05
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How do I bring up this issue with my boss/dad?

The same way you would with any other boss, dad or not. Be professional and factual. Otherwise you will sound like a whiner.

Should I even bring it up?

If the pay gap is that significant, then yes I would ask for clarification regarding the difference. It is always a bit dangerous knowing others salaries. At the end of the day though, you need to worry about this: "Am I getting paid fairly for what I am being asked to do."

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I'd like to suggest a possible alternate approach that may get some of what you want (a feeling of a fairer reward for the work you do) without having to tackle the "brother-in-law issue" head-on.

Suggest to your boss (and/or your father, as you think appropriate) that now maybe the time to take on a new developer/installations engineer and grow the business.

  • Obviously, this would only be viable if the business is doing "well enough" to stand the increased cost of a new employee, but, if you are as busy as you say, and are being called-out at such short notice, it sounds like you may have enough business to do this.

  • You can pitch it as an opportunity to expand the business: the extra capacity will allow you to take on more work and, hopefully, pay for itself quickly.

  • If it is the travelling that is your biggest annoyance, you could pitch for a more dedicated installations engineer, freeing you to concentrate on the development side1.

  • Although you would be expected to "take up the slack" by spending more time developing, you would be doing more of what you enjoy (and less of what you don't like) so — hopefully — you can become "more content".

  • With more people (or, at least one person initially) in the company, it may allow you to begin to let the issue of your brother-in-law's salary/workload to fade into the background somewhat.


1 I started work in a four-man company: two bosses/owners, myself and another developer. We used to say I'd write the software on Monday, install it on Tuesday and provide support on Wednesday. The "turning point" on the road to becoming a 50-strong company was probably when we took on dedicated support and installations engineers (one of each), freeing the developers to (mostly) concentrate on developing.

1

As other have noted, it seems like your objection isn't that your pay is inadequate, but that your brother's pay is far higher than his contributions merit. You note that frequently he has nothing to do.

One possible solution: are there things you're doing that could be done by him?

In SW development, one of the most obvious ways to utilize someone in his sort of position would be as a tester. Possibly, he could assist in writing documentation (or, at least, proofread it).

It would generally be much more acceptable to suggest ways that an underutilized employee could assist you (allowing you to focus more on the tasks only you can do) than to complain that someone else is paid the same as you, but does much less.

1

One thing the other answers haven't done as far as I can see is challenge the assumption that the brother-in-law does deserve to be paid less.

This seems like a classic example of the difference between hard skills vs soft skills, and work vs responsibilities.

You see the situation like this:

  • You need to acquire and maintain lot of hard skills (programming languages, technologies)
    • ...while your brother-in-law only has to deal with easy things like calendars.
  • You need to work long hours and travel a lot - you enjoy the job, but it's objectively challenging, hard work
    • ...while your brother-in-law often has free time and doesn't need to travel much.

That's all very true and valid, and it sounds like you definitely deserve a good salary, but in terms of comparison it's only one side of the story. Pay isn't only about hard skills and hard work: there is also responsibility, soft skills and trust:

  • Your brother-in-law's job is high responsibility:
    • If he messes up in collecting payments, the company could be unable to meet its debts, be temporarily unable to pay staff or make required purchases, could be sued, etc etc.
    • If he messes up the calendars, every project could fail, not just one. If he assigns work to the wrong people or at the wrong time, or misses something, multiple projects can fail, staff can become demoralised or leave, etc etc. Very small mistakes, misjudgements, or risks that don't pay off can have huge consequences (and there's no equivalent of unit tests that can automatically catch them before they become a crisis!)
    • You say he has no "targets or expectations". In most companies, that would mean all of your targets and expectations are his too. If you fail, you will get a reprimand, and then (if the company is well run), he will be given a grilling as to why you were put in that situation: why did he assign that work to you, why did he not see the problem and intervene sooner, why didn't he assign more time or resources to prevent the problem?
    • There's almost certainly more to his work and responsibilities than what you see on the surface
  • Your brother-in-law's job requires a high level of soft skills, like making wise decisions, assessing people's abilities, communication, planning, strategy, etc. These are valuable because, although many more people have them than hard skills, they are much more difficult for someone to learn or improve.
    • If he makes a misjudgement or miscommunication when managing the developers' time, multiple projects could fail, and staff could fall out or leave
    • If he misjudges the level of forcefulness needed in chasing invoices, clients could be lost or relationships soured if he's too stern, or cash flow problems above could happen or a client could think they can walk all over your if he misjudges it in the other direction. And it's possible (and not uncommon!) to fail in both ways at once! It can be a difficult balancing act.
  • Finally, the bosses need to have a lot of trust in a person in this situation:
    • They are often proverbially a bit like a firefighter: it may look like they spend most of their time sitting and drinking tea [<--substitute here the appropriate beverage of your people], but you need a lot from them when suddenly, everything is on fire. Sorting it out will be his responsibility. If he doesn't manage such a situation well, it can cripple the company, and it's extremely hard to judge how a stranger in a job interview will handle such a situation. If you know someone is dependable in such a situation, that's extremely valuable.
    • There is a lot of potential for a corrupt or weak person in such a position to do a lot of harm and get away with it. Knowing that the person is trustworthy is a big deal.

Absolutely none of this is meant to under value your work or responsibilities - of course you need soft skills too, and need to manage problems too. But this will hopefully help you understand why, when a business does have someone they trust in what looks like a mostly-easy managerial position, it makes sense to pay to keep them, so you know everything is in safe hands when suddenly, it's not easy.

If you've never noticed such a situation kicking off, that suggests to me not that his job is easy and it never happened, but that he did a sufficiently good job of managing it that you were able to just carry on working and didn't notice.

In fact, in many countries (certainly in the UK) it's common (and a common source of complaint!) for a manager to be paid more than a professional specialist like a developer. If you're paid the same, that's pretty good.

0

The other answers all treat this like a normal job. It's not, eventually you are going to be the owner of this company and your brother-in-law is going to be your co-owner/business partner.

Since you are likely not going to want to leave, and it seems like the current owners want the pay the way it is, you don't have much leverage. Better to grin and bear it. At least the money is still going into the family.

0

There are a lot of answers already but I feel they don't quite cover the family business aspect well.

It sounds like you have a small, yet profitable business. You are a key part of this. Forgetting about your brother in law for a moment. This really stands out

We will also be given the same opportunity to buy into the business when my father retires

This is perhaps the issue. You are working for family at below market rates in order to keep the business profitable and at some stage, you will be allowed to pay for part of it.

You are already paying for it. You are working long hours, travelling a lot (side note, family business should help with family issues otherwise what is the point), and not earning what you would elsewhere. Every month you are out of pocket to help keep the business profitable.

If it was not a family business you could leave easily and get a job with better pay and terms, but obviously, this will be difficult in your situation as it would cause difficulty with family.

So I would propose the following.

  1. Work out your market rate (I think Stack Overflow as a tool for this)
  2. Work out your monthly (or annual deficit), your market rate - your salary
  3. Book a meeting with your Father and the Co-owner to discuss this. You'll have to be firm but friendly. Frame it as 'by working for the family company I am effectively investing X monthly into the business, what can I get for this'. The owners need to look out for their long-term future but so do you. Shares or share options seem a viable option.

Looking at some of the comments it seems that your Father may not be used to the idea of a family business. They are very complex and fraught things. There is often ambiguity about what peoples roles and responsibilities are and where they stand with regards to current and future ownership and control. This ambiguity in many cases can be destructive. If the above suggestion does not sound feasible then at least try to get in writing what you will be getting in terms of an opportunity when and for how much. You can then make the difficult decision if it is worth it to you (both in terms of money and family cohesion). Bear in mind that there is risk as well, you could work for X years under market rate and at some stage, the company could fold leaving you with nothing.

protected by Jane S May 14 '18 at 20:39

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