Marie’s Answer: In a family business, relatives often have more power than managers. By dealing with the wife, your employees have figured out how to go over your head without going to your boss. Very clever.
• The wife may be consciously usurping your authority or simply acting without thinking. Either way, your fundamental problem is poorly defined roles. Everyone in the office should clearly understand who is responsible for what.
• To resolve the issue, request assistance from your boss and his wife. Complaining about her would be suicidal, so describe the situation in a neutral way. Example: “Although my title is ‘office manager,’ the assistants don’t seem to view me as their supervisor. I think it would help if we could all agree on my role.”
• Once your supervisory duties are defined, have your boss review them with the staff. Then ask the wife to send the assistants back to you when they bring issues to her (which they will). This clearly sends the message that you really are the supervisor.
You may find, however, that the wife is unwilling to relinquish her power and her husband is unwilling to intervene. In that case, your “manager” title will continue to be relatively meaningless.