I'm one of 3 employees that came to this company with the intention to professionalize it.

It is a family owned company, with a lot of management problems. My boss (52), founder of this 30 y/o hearing aids company, leader in the state, stays out quite a lot, he usually works only 1 or 2 week days at the office. He likes to enjoy his grandkids and wife and has some side non-related businesses as well.

He has a daughter (24) and a son (26), both work as audiologists, they are NOT prepared to keep the company moving forward. Other family members work here as well.

He knows his family is not capable of keep the company moving forward, so he hired 3 new professionals, which I'm part of. The company is structured as follows: 43 employees which 22 family members and 18 are non family members. All family members are either audiologists (which we consider our sales team) or financial/ administrative managers. Other 18 employees work as assistants or receptionists. Other 3 include marketing coordinator (me), expansion director and a senior audiologist.

We (3 new professionals) noticed that every time the boss is out, all of the family members work at 10% efficiency or do not work at all, side conversations, 1 hour coffee-breaks and so on. Every time he is at the office, they work at 120% effectiveness and are scared of committing mistakes or showing laziness.

We do not have cameras, we do not have well established KPIs, we do not have monitoring systems.

We want to tell our boss all these problems, but do not have such arguments besides our point of view. All changes (i.e. installing a vigilance camera system) has to go through his approval.

How can we manage to tell him that family members do not work productively when he is out?

  • 13
    What's wrong with using those exact words? This is your view that productivity drops when out, let him handle it.
    – Aida Paul
    Commented Jan 13, 2020 at 17:22
  • 2
    He is very protective about his family @TymoteuszPaul - So we have to tell him that without hurting his feelings or trying to sound hateful on the family side.
    – RA828
    Commented Jan 13, 2020 at 17:26
  • 10
    Not gonna happen. Cannot at one side tattle that people are slacking off when not directly supervised and on another expect for no one to be hurt.
    – Aida Paul
    Commented Jan 13, 2020 at 17:26
  • 5
    Perhaps relevant: "came to this company with the intention to professionalize it". Were you hired in order to professionalize it, or did you have that intention privately?
    – msanford
    Commented Jan 13, 2020 at 21:59
  • 1
    Some answers given so far advise to not mess up the family structure but on the other side you are there to improve this company and furthermore you don't seem to be very happy with this. So aren't you in a situation that allows to risk politely telling your boss what you think and if it goes wrong look for another job, what you perhaps would do anyway?
    – puck
    Commented Jan 14, 2020 at 18:33

4 Answers 4


The situation you describe has the potential to be quite delicate. It's good that you're interested in ensuring the business is successful and productive, but a family business can be quite challenging to manage.

I would suggest that you have a frank discussion with the owner/manager, but be careful to:

  1. Listen to the owner about his/her desires for the company and how it is managed
  2. Offer only the facts from your direct observations - avoid offering judgement or criticism
  3. Suggest a solution that aligns with the owner's goals for the organization

Assuming that the owner wants to grow the business and see his/her children become successful managers, you might suggest that the owner hire a full-time professional manager that can operate the business, mentor future managers, and develop new demand to match an increase in productivity.

Given your role shares responsibility for development - you might add any facts you have that show there is demand you could serve if the family-member employees were more productive.

  • 1
    Will check this one as an answer because I will not feel happy to work in a company like this, I will take the risk to fix things and communicate my thoughts together with my 2 colleagues, following your suggestions. If all goes wrong, I might leave, but I will at least be comfortable knowing that I tried fixing problems.
    – RA828
    Commented Jan 14, 2020 at 12:15

How can we manage to tell him that family members do not work productively when he is out?

You are a marketing coordinator. Unless these family members work for you or the owner asks you about it directly, it's not your job to be the company tattle tale.

The owner has decided that he doesn't need to be there often, despite knowing that his family is not capable of keeping the company moving forward. It's up to him to decide how his family is to be managed, not you.

You coordinate the marketing. Leave the management of family members to their managers.

  • 3
    But with me there is an Expansion Director (which pretty much takes care of the operation and opens new clinics around the country), and a Senior Audiologist, which is the boss of all audiologists (which are all family members besides himself). If I may create an analogy, We are a babysitter of difficult spoiled children, who will only listen to their parents, not us. We want to have a talk with the parents, but they are very protective about their children behavior.
    – RA828
    Commented Jan 13, 2020 at 18:37
  • 1
    A more apt analogy seems to be that you're the gardener - you're there, working for the "family," and somewhat responsible for the public image - but not actually responsible for babysitting the spoiled kids even though you see their bad behavior all day.
    – dwizum
    Commented Jan 14, 2020 at 15:44

Do not get into this. It is likely to go badly for you.

I went to schools which were absolutely full of the children of people in this situation.

Many reasonably wealthy families have the problem of children who are nowhere near suited to taking over the family business. 9 times out of 10, they get given it anyway to keep the peace within the family.

Love blinds to an amazing extent and loyal and ethical employees often got removed because the owner suspects jealousy or sabotage from their comments.

I knew of an accountant who told a wealthy owner that his son was fudging the books. His contract was not renewed.

I knew a foreman who told the owner his daughter was creating fake expenses and running them through the company. The foreman lost his promotion.

I have known parents to attack their siblings for bringing this evidence about their children to them.

You are doing the owner great favour (as were the other employees), but I have yet to see it be interpreted as such by a parent (and that is what they are with their children first, not a boss or employer).

Treat the transition date as effectively a potential layoff and plan accordingly.

Even as a member of the family (who has an independent income), I am not sure that I would inform my grandfather if I knew of anything untoward his family members who work in the family business did. The politics and messiness is enormous.

As an employee who earns a living from the business? Wouldn't touch the issue with a 10-foot pole.


He knows his family is not capable of keep the company moving forward, so he hired 3 new professionals, which I'm part of.

It sounds like he understands this and is trying to take steps to fix it by hiring you three. Ultimately though it sounds like your job is in jeopardy since you were hired to fix this deficiency. My thought is you should sit down with your boss when he comes in. Tell him you understand you were hired with the intention to professionalize the workforce. Then go off and explain while he is out, only 10% of the workforce actually does anything. Have a plan on what needs to be done like having a manager that is capable of disciplining the workforce up to termination and hiring.

  • 2
    Along with this, document everything. Let the owner know when people aren't working and how this coincides with his being there. Don't let this be a "he said she said" thing, provide documentation as to how things actually go. If he is willing, have him work a full week and document how productive it is, then compare that to the previous documentation of the lack of progress when he isn't there. And be prepared for backlash with your own set amount of stubbornness, without being condescending or otherwise undermining his authority. Commented Jan 14, 2020 at 19:48

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