All in the bad boss family: The curse of the silver spoon

This was a comment I received in response to one of last week’s posts:

My boss is in his early 30′s and born with a silver spoon in his mouth .. He inherited the company I work for. He has nobad boss family respect for his employees and is forever thinking he is being taken advantage of. Out of a one of his many fits he throws he decided to take away paid holidays. Said it was not worth giving us money and not getting something for it. I over heard him tell his brother just have her do it she’s my new slave now. Had I not needed this minimum wage no insurance no benefits job I would of told him where to stick it. To say the least I am scouring the ads daily.

I’ve had the misfortune (surprise, surprise) of working for two very different family-owned companies. In the first case – a much smaller operation –  two sons, who were Vice President of Research and Development and Vice President of Sales respectively, hated each other, their father, their mother and every single employee who worked for the company. There were days when I expected doors to start slamming shut and bodies to be hurling through the air in response to the evil permeating the offices. The sons respected no one, least of all the employees, and were both dumber than dirt. Despite that fact, they both walked around with an air of intellectual superiority, simply because they had been born into money and power. The curse of the silver spoon.

In the second family-owned company, the offspring that I worked with was respectful, humble and genuinely tried to make a difference. She was however, given way too much responsibility for her level of experience, something that would never had happened had she not been the daughter of the owner.

Do silver spoon kids always make bad bosses? Of course not. The Chik-fil-A family and their strong set of core values and mission are an example of family-run operations done right. Unfortunately it’s the bad apples and the Paris Hilton’s of the world that make the most mess and draw the most attention.

Have you ever worked for silver-spoon kids? Share your silver-spoon bad boss stories in the comment section, or email me at denised(@) (remove parenthesis from @ symbol to send.)

A family affair

j0285013 My first job out of college I worked for a father and son, and son team. If I didn’t believe that every career challenge served to make you stronger, I would say that accepting that position was one of the biggest mistakes of my life.  The boss was the most chauvinistic, incompetent man I’d ever met, and his sons spent their days vying for the title. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I’d signed up to be a character in the middle of one of the worst family dramas I’d ever witnessed.

Family owned business have their benefits. They can be more loyal to employees than large corporations, and they tend to be more family oriented. On the downside, a family owned business is, well, full of family – whether they’re qualified to be there or not. In addition, every dysfunction, every perceived slight or preference is magnified when it’s done within the confines of a family business. The brothers at the company where I worked were constantly at each others throats. Literally. On several occasions, their father had to physically break up hallway fist fights. Did I mention the brothers were men in their 40’s? The only person they hated more than each other was their mother. We knew this because they frequently, and loudly, referred to her as “that b***h!”  In hindsight I realize that the brothers knew they were absolutely unqualified for the positions they held and so did their best to distract the rest of us from that fact.

Later on in my career I worked for a much larger family owned business. This family seemed genuinely passionate about their product and their business. But for all their passion, they couldn’t muster up enough management skill to effectively run the organization.  The kind of hiring and planning errors the owners of the company made were the kind discussed in entry level B School courses. Entry level assistants were seeing the writing on the wall before upper management was. The truth is, passion alone doesn’t make a manager a good one.  Those of us who aren’t born with the instinct to lead and lead well, learn it through a combination of formal education and on the job training. When family members are hired simply because they share a last name with the company, employees, investors and the corporate image are the ones who suffer the most.

My days of working with family owned businesses are over. And although I read stories every day about good ones – Chic-fil-A has developed an excellent business model for folding family into the business – I’m still a little gun shy.  The truth is, when they get it right, nothing beats the combination of management skill and passion that comes with a family owned businesses. The problem is, a lot of them aren’t getting it right.  Do you work for a family owned business? Have they gotten it right, and if not, what are they missing?  Share your responses in the comment section or on twitter @reallybadboss.

Cronyism, Nepotism, Sexual Harassment – Just another day in government

femaFEMA, the agency that famously mismanaged Katrina under Michael Brown, is apparently (no surprise to the rest of us) plagued with management problems. 

FEMA’s interim director, Nancy Ward, was due back in the agency’s New Orleans office last Thursday to continue reviewing the allegations.   Employees  say the way the office is being managed is a disaster.  Ward’s visits began after a CBS Evening News report claimed that there were 30 complaints, in February alone, against Transitional Recovery Office chief of staff, Douglas Whitmer.  While the allegations are under investigation, Whitmer is on temporary assignment in Texas. To help assess the situation, FEMA created an on-line survey that can be completed confidentially by the New Orleans staff.  The larger story here is how the mismanagement is impacting the post-Katrina rebuilding efforts.  Nearly $4 billion of the $6 billion FEMA designated to rebuild after Katrina is still unspent, due in large part, many say, to the mismanagement in the New Orleans office.

Serious management issues are definitely not news to government workers.  Government agencies are notoriously plagued by bad management and low morale.  It would be great if these confidential surveys could be implemented throughout several government agencies and if when the results were released, real changes in management would actually take place.