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I work for a large company in one of their many offices. In our office of ~100 people, we have two separate teams whose tasks somewhat overlap. Team A has more entry-level type jobs and does more of the grunt work, while Team B are more of the big idea-types. Each team is made up of a number of different smaller teams, but both ultimately have one person over them. These two then report to the CEO (who works in a different office). I am on Team A (as is ~75% of the office) along with a woman we'll call "Liz." Liz is married to the leader of Team B.

Liz does almost no work; it's rare to find her at her desk. More commonly she is chatting with other staff, hanging out in the break room, or coming in late/leaving early pretty much as she pleases (not the norm for most of our office and no one else on Team A). She is loud and disruptive, and gets away with doing whatever she wants (or doesn't want) to do.

Previously, before they were married, she was actually Team B Leader's PA (Personal Assistant). Apparently other offices who communicate with us did not like this and HR intervened to split them up. So she's now in the same office, but on Team A, and doing a non-PA job. However, as far as I'm aware she's not qualified to do most of the work she's doing and it seems like no mid-level managers say anything about her behaviour because she's married to the boss. Instead, they've lightened her workload because it takes her so long to get anything done (it literally takes her a week to do what should take 1-2 hours).

So it's a perfect storm: Liz is lazy and unqualified, but is also given very little work to do because the mid-level managers know she's not up to anything important.

Aside from the situation generally seeming unprofessional and annoying, it also directly affects me: Liz and I are on the same immediate team. Of the few tasks she does, my work waits on a couple of them being completed. So, as a result, I'm slowed down by her laziness on a few of my tasks. I can actually do what she does and do it faster, but I'm not sure if it's sensible to bring that idea up with my immediate manager (who is friends with Liz). She also tends to ignore emails sent to her, though speaking to her directly generally is more constructive.

I would love to go to HR, but I think it's probably job suicide. Are there any other steps I can take?

  • There is one missing character in that story: the leader of team A. What is he/she thinking about the situation? – Taladris Apr 10 '17 at 1:23
  • @Taladris I have no idea, honestly. He's not in the office a lot and doesn't interact much with the staff, except those immediately under him. He might not even know? Not sure. He's also only be around for about 1 year. Team B Leader has been around for 7 or 8. – user50021 Apr 10 '17 at 1:36
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    Possible duplicate of Boss's son does no work at all, how to handle it – gnat Apr 10 '17 at 10:19
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    The best way to deal with a coworker who is married to someone with significant influence at your company is as follows; politely. – Jonathon Cowley-Thom Apr 10 '17 at 16:05
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    @JonathonCowley-Thom I think even better way would be to marry someone with even more influence at the company – gnat Apr 11 '17 at 9:17
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I would love to go to HR, but I think it's probably job suicide. Are there any other steps I can take?

Not many.

Don't antagonise this lady

Keep a solid track of your work and make sure you can't get blamed for her laziness

Mind your own business

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    I'd also add that he can report his own manager that his work is waiting on X to be done, leaving him to check who that X is assigned to and why it's not done yet. – BgrWorker Apr 10 '17 at 9:01
  • Really, this advice applies whenever a particular person or group is often a blocker to your work - your job is to tell your manager what needs to happen for your work to be unblocked, and it is their job to figure out how to get it unblocked. If you make it personal, you are putting your own butt in the wind. – IllusiveBrian Apr 17 '17 at 20:32
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It sounds like you are not Liz's direct supervisor, so you shouldn't do anything directly and should not go to HR. Instead, speak to your line manager. Mention that your work is being held up. Report the effect on team morale.

If nothing is done about it, and it really bothers you, then maybe it's time to start looking for a new job.

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If I was you, I'd just do her job as needed. As you said, every week or so she gets assigned one or two hours of actual work. Some of that work holds you up in your own tasks. Instead of waiting, just do the work that allows you to move forward.

Given your description of Team A and your role within, there is nothing you can do to right this injustice. There are people with more clout then you that have been convinced into silence. You can impress them with your ability to work around the problem that they are powerless to stop.

In some ways this is no different then working with a very difficult client.

Keep in mind that she may not be lazy, just incompetent. Often times if a person does not know how to do a job they can appear lazy. Imagine trying to explain javascript to your grandmother. There is no reference and it would be impossible to do so in most cases. Can a personal assistant reasonably transition to your daily duties?

  • If I was you, I would most definitely not do her job. Unless I get paid two salaries. Which isn't going to happen. – gnasher729 Apr 17 '17 at 16:03
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    @gnasher729, then you are going to cut off your own nose to spite your face. It is silly to let someone who has this level of political power cause delays that you are going to be blamed for. If you can't do that, then the only other option is to leave because there is a 0% chance that you are going to find a way to improve the way this person works. – HLGEM Apr 17 '17 at 17:20
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As you are not her supervisor, you really have no control over her work.

Your only option here is to keep your immediate supervisor informed about your progress. Specifically, what items you have which cannot be completed as you are waiting on things.

Hopefully you have regular meetings with your manager about your project(s). That's a great time to say, "Item 1 is complete. Item 2 is waiting on the TPS report." You don't need to go into detail who is causing the hold ups - unless directly asked. Even then you should maintain a high level of professionalism and not lay blame. Just state whatever it is you are waiting on.

Also, make sure that whatever it is you are waiting on isn't contrived to make the other person look bad. That will absolutely backfire on you. In other words, do your best with what you are given.

At some point your manager might be asked by his/her manager why certain project(s) take longer than expected. Although, my guess is that this is already known.

By keeping your manager informed about what is holding you up, you show that you are trying to do the job. By not trying to lay blame, you are allowing the manager to draw their own conclusions without engaging in infighting - which would go badly for you. By staying professional you are actually helping your own manager, which they will appreciate and hopefully that'll translate into higher pay. Further you aren't antagonizing someone that would be detrimental to your career.

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