We have a colleague who, quite frankly, does not work. The only exception is when the boss asks him to do a specific job; in this instance, he will do it (although usually in 5 minutes but make out like it takes 2 hours) and then go back to doing nothing.

The one caveat here is that it is the boss's son. It seems that because of this (and obviously we don't know all the details) the boss constantly turns a blind eye to the occasional ball that is dropped. But the boss doesn't know the extent of how little work he actually does. It is causing friction in the office because it is demotivating, and the team constantly misses sales targets and deadlines because the colleague (the boss's son) simply does not work towards completing them. This impacts on the rest of the team.

We have evidence in the form of internet traffic reports and traces that simply show him reading articles and playing online games all day.

We have discusssed it and we have determined we have three options: 1) we ignore it; 2) we talk to the colleague; or 3) we take the evidence to the boss.

Any advice would be hugely appreciated.

  • If the guy is reasonable at all, I'd say go talk to him. At least, talk to him first. If he's the typical, arrogant boss' son, that might be a problem. Talking to the boss might be risky. He might take offense in your 'investigation' against his son. Commented Feb 11, 2015 at 10:56
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    It's never smart to "take down" a colleague, even if it is honestly the best choice. No one wins. What you could do is to bring his procrastination to light via implementing a scrum-like daily meet-up (what you did yesterday, what you plan to do today) with a reporting manager in attendance if possible. Sooner or later, the "news" will swim up, and something will happen. But it is important not to directly lay blame. You should let the actions speak for themselves. Commented Feb 11, 2015 at 10:56
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    @JuhaUntinen suggesting regarding a scrum seems a very good way to flag it without making it into an argument... although a skilled procrastinator can make a lot of noise about very little. That said, I don't think starting a fight with the boss's son is ever a good idea, you start the discussion at an immediate and severe disadvantage.
    – Jon Story
    Commented Feb 11, 2015 at 11:29
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    Certainly, if the team meets as a group then it's presumably a progress meeting? Just add a "describe what you were doing last week" segment. Each person describes what they've done, how it's going, whether they need help or have any blockers or urgent deadlines other should know about. Make sure it's adding value, not just people justifying their own existence.
    – Jon Story
    Commented Feb 11, 2015 at 12:35
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    How does he not doing his work affect the rest of the team? Is the rest of the team unable to do their work without help from the boss' son?
    – Masked Man
    Commented Feb 11, 2015 at 16:24

5 Answers 5


I would bet that your boss is FULLY aware of this issue, and at levels you don't realize. It's probably devastating him, personally.

I would put the "evidence" away, for now. This is probably a very emotional issue for your boss, and likely he was hoping being teamed up with good performers would help his son "see the light." Approach your boss with that in mind, and keep it very non-confrontational.

If you can break through that, and still have a good tone in the conversation, talk to your boss about a target/bonus structure that accounts for his son's non-participation.

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    +1- He knows if the son is a hard worker or not. If he was a hard worker at home, he would not be slacking off on the job.
    – Jim Clay
    Commented Feb 11, 2015 at 17:23
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    This answer makes a two assumptions (1. the boss knows, 2. the boss's strategy to deal with the problem). If OP approaches the boss and these assumptions are wrong, OP is going to look very silly. Final paragraph translates to "son is cause of all problems, lower targets to accomodate son" which is a verbose way of passing the buck. No boss wants to listen to a long buck-passing story.
    – bharal
    Commented Feb 11, 2015 at 21:48
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    @bharal - no one is suggesting passing the buck. Setting sales targets that are legitimate "stretch goals" is still appropriate. But if you effectively have 4 salespeople in a 5-person department, that math needs adjusted. And yes, I assume the father knows his son well. That's why I said, "I would bet that ..." Commented Feb 11, 2015 at 21:50
  • @bharal I don't think they are assumptions either. From the OP "the boss turns a blind eye" implies he knows, he is just avoiding it.
    – Ronnie W
    Commented Feb 11, 2015 at 22:48
  • @RonnieW. But the boss doesn't know the extent of how little work he actually does. indicates differently. Boss's strategy to deal with the issue is still pure speculation (but! an interesting speculation).
    – bharal
    Commented Feb 11, 2015 at 22:57

This is a bad situation, but there are several points that spring to mind

  1. you are (from the context of the question) not this employee's manager.
  2. dobbing a colleague in typically doesn't result in a better workplace environment
  3. you are collecting information that you absolutely should not be
  4. you are spending company resources on unauthorised activity
  5. the boss's son is strangely competent from your one example

In this context, the boss is more than capable of turning around and saying "are we not hitting targets because of "Guy", or because you haven't been spending time hitting targets?"

That it is the boss's son is immaterial. That you've been snooping on a colleague is a pretty big breach of trust - the boss might wonder if you snoop on him! Colleagues not in the loop might wonder if they're being snooped on!

And when it becomes knowledge that you reported on "Guy" using this snooping as evidence - oh brother! What is morale going to be like then?

So to answer your immediate question, point 3 is a bad idea in the sense that it is unlikely to achieve its aims. On the other hand, it has the possibility of landing disciplinary action on yourself, and on reducing morale even further.

Point 1 is hard to answer because I don't know if the boss owns the company, or is an employee of the company. If he is an employee, where is he in the hierarchy?

As a rule of thumb - if he is the owner/high up in the hierarchy, then you should ignore this behaviour. Maybe look for another job, but don't report it. The son may as well be a proxy for the boss - it is the son's company, in effect. Even if the boss takes your side, the son won't, and you won't be happy with the situation later on.

Point 2 is a weird idea. If I wasn't working hard at a company, I'd probably know about it. It wouldn't be a revelation to discover. What would this achieve? Showing "Guy" the evidence you have is a terrible idea, because it is in fact evidence that you haven't been doing your job, and he is effectively your boss (by proxy).

It isn't going to cause a change, why would Guy change his behaviour? It will probably make him dislike you, and it definitely will increase tension in the workplace.

What you need to do is resolve the actual problem. I don't think the problem is the boss's son slacking off. I mean, that is part of the problem, but it's not a part you can really solve, so let's pretend it isn't the problem.

Instead, you need to solve the fact that the team constantly misses sales targets and deadlines. If anything reduces morale, it is being part of a sinking or otherwise underperforming ship.

Raise to your boss that the targets should be modified - to improve moral. Raise to him that perhaps more metrics need to be taken to determine ways to improve. The metrics aren't about finding out who is underperforming! They are there to find the best practices, and how to utilise them more fully.

This is a good way for you to show leadership. I know very little about modern day (or latter day. or any) sales theory, but there must be some processes that can be used to create measurable, meaningful data to analyse performance. Suggest you implement those, whatever they are. (This site might even be the place to find out what they are, but you'll need to word that question right to stop it being closed)

It might come out in the wash that the boss's son is... a wash1. It might not. But surely being part of a better performing team is what you want?

Fighting against what is the very concept of nepotism is a losing proposition, so if that is really what is bothering you (fair complaint, btw) I'd suggest looking for another company instead.



*: Is it even a pun??? I find defining pun-ness tricky.

  • 1
    +1, you can't directly take on nepotism without making you and your team look unprofessional, but you can tackle different problems, such as morale, which could in turn resolve the nepotism problem.
    – panoptical
    Commented Feb 11, 2015 at 19:04
  • Disagree. You answer is almost "ignore the problem". That won't do anything. The OP doesn't state this is the case, but what if it is because of his slacking that directly causes the deadlines and targets to be missed? If the boss can handle hearing it, there is no reason not to bring it up. It's affecting team performance and morale.
    – Ronnie W
    Commented Feb 11, 2015 at 20:02
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    @RonnieW. telling a father that his son isn't good enough... man, just asking for it. The messenger will be shot. BAM. Also, "the OP doesn't state this is the case" means that we cannot assume it. "if the boss can handle hearing it" is another assumption (outside of feel-good family movies the wrong assumption) we should not make.
    – bharal
    Commented Feb 11, 2015 at 20:26
  • @bharal My point was the answer is making assumptions. I am saying those assumptions may not be true. He is assuming the boss "can't" handle it and that the lazy employee "is not" directly the reason deadlines are being missing. Those are still assumptions, just different ones.
    – Ronnie W
    Commented Feb 11, 2015 at 20:37
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    @RonnieW. i guess by saying fighting nepotism is a losing proposition i am making an assumption - it is a fair one to make tho. I've heard&Read about countless "fights nepotism, loses" stories. Never heard one that went well. OTH i don't make assumptions about the cause of the team's performance slide. That i don't explicitly mention "Guy" (regarding team performance) doesn't mean that I am making an assumption. It means I am, literally, not making any assumptions.
    – bharal
    Commented Feb 11, 2015 at 21:41

This is a no win situation for you. The boss will not appreciate being told his son is a slacker, the son won't care, he surely already knows. You can, 100% of the time, assume that in a situation where the boss's son and the other employees are in conflict, the son will win. If you want to stay at this place, you need to assume he will not be helping and do estimates and set deadlines accordingly.

If you truly think you need another peson to get the work done, then present that as an idea with data on how deadlines are being missed ad sales targets being missed. But do not mention it is because one person is not pulling the load. Instead show how hard you and teh rest of team are working to get things done and why there simply aren't enough available hours to get the work done.

Don't let this person demotivate you and cause your own performance to drop. That is not in your own best interests. I assure you if anyone on the team goes, it will not be the son. If your personal performance drops, it might be you who gets the blame for the missed deadlines and sales targets. Concentrate on performing as well as you can as long as you are there. Someday (possibly quite soon if you decide to leave) you will need to be answering interview questions about what you did on this job and how you handled difficult problems. Ensure that what you did makes you look best to a future employer.

Your choices are to accept that the person will do no work and plan the workload accordingly or to leave. I can envision no circumstance where reporting the son is in your best interests.

  • 1
    +1 I assure you if anyone on the team goes, it will not be the son = yes. Reporting the son is just going to be trouble - even if the boss agrees, even if the boss gives his son the sternest talking to he's going to want to get rid of the guy who doesn't like his son.
    – bharal
    Commented Feb 11, 2015 at 20:29

I wouldn't even try to approach a boss and tell them their son is doing nothing.

Rather, I see two potential options. The first is figuring out how to motivate this person. Sounds like he really doesn't have an interest in the tasks that have been assigned. Go to lunch with him and find out what it is he wants to be doing. There are several potential options from: he really is just this lazy on up to he doesn't like putting together pie charts but really wants to do bar graphs.. who knows. Maybe he just doesn't feel comfortable around the rest of the team. Lunch helps. Point is that you need to stop isolating him and start bringing him into the team in with some activity that they want to do.

The second potential option is to just pretend he's not part of the team at all. In other words, let them spend all day reading the news or playing games while the rest of you do the job at hand. Basically consider him as not bringing any more to the company than the potted plant in the corner does. At some point he'll either be happy to be ignored OR he'll start making a fuss about not being included. Ideally it would be the latter at which point you would have an opportunity to try again.

Honestly, I'd only take the second approach if the first one doesn't work out.

Regardless, going to tell daddy that his little boy is a waste of space is not going to earn you any type of endearment. Also, I agree with Wesley - the boss is likely fully and completely aware of what it is his son is (or is not) doing. As a father of several children I can tell you that I know exactly how each of my kids are motivated, when they are slacking off and what level of involvement they have with whatever task it is they are working on. Quite frankly one of them isn't fit for any job beyond professional game player; but fortunately there is still time so we're working on that. ;)

Point is there might be other considerations that you are just not aware of. Presumably there is a Mrs. Boss who might very well have some type of input here ... Heck, maybe the boss is hoping your team's work ethic will rub off on him. (see option 1).


You have a 4th option: Do not cover for the work this person is supposed to do and when it doesn't get done, the boss will realize that his son is the one not doing his job.

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    This assumes that the boss knows the assignments each employee is given, instead of looking at team performance as a whole.
    – panoptical
    Commented Feb 11, 2015 at 19:01
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    there should be a manager at the level just above the OP's who is assigning work. Someone knows who is supposed to do what or this company has more problems than a slacker son.
    – Voxwoman
    Commented Feb 11, 2015 at 20:07

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