Q: "My boss, who owns the business, recently added her daughter to our staff. Since 'Tammy' would be reporting to me, she asked how I felt about this. I said I would treat her daughter just like any other employee. Unfortunately, I forgot to consider how she might react if I did that.
"At first, Tammy and I had a good working relationship. However, I soon began receiving complaints from clients about mistakes that she had made. When I mentioned these issues to my boss, she seemed to understand and did not overreact.
"The problems continued, so I finally had to call Tammy in for a performance discussion. She said I was picking on her and complained to her mother. When I provided documentation of Tammy’s errors, my boss became furious and said I should not be keeping a file on her daughter.
"Now I’m not sure what to do. How can I manage Tammy without committing career suicide?" Mystified Manager
A: Supervising the boss’s child is almost always a no-win proposition. When it comes to their offspring, even the most rational managers may have strong protective instincts that override their objectivity.
To walk this particular tightrope, you will need to talk with your boss before taking any action with Tammy. That way, you can gauge her reaction and modify your plans accordingly. Since your manager has shown signs of being a reasonable person, you might also consider discussing the unique challenges posed by this family bond.
For example: “To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure how to handle supervising my boss’s daughter. Because of Tammy’s special connection to you, we obviously can’t have the customary manager-employee relationship. Do you have any thoughts about the best way to approach this situation?”
Unfortunately, most managers who hire their relatives fail to develop a plan for keeping family relationships separate from business relationships.
Having trouble with a difficult employee? You might find some help here: Seven Employees that Drive Managers Crazy .