No, your boss shouldn’t employ her son and give him chances you deserve

Each week, Dr Kirstin Ferguson tackles questions on the workplace, career and leadership in her advice column “Got a Minute?” This week, a favoured son, a high-paying prison of a job, and whether to tell your old work how it really is.

I love my job. The problem is my supervisor: she has secured employment for her son, who is on the same casual contract as me, but she allocates double the number of days to him. I’ve been at our educational institution a year longer than her son, and I’m significantly more qualified. She also notes her son’s “achievements” to the bosses at every opportunity, while minimising or dismissing mine. She never asks for my input or ideas, rather defers to her son, usually when I’m not present. I am fearful of approaching HR as I don’t want to lose my job or be seen by my employer as a trouble-maker. I feel depressed and disempowered. What can I do?

The golden child getting a golden run needs to be checked.Credit:Dionne Gain

You have identified exactly why conflicts of interest need to be identified and managed appropriately by someone independent of the actual conflict. Given it doesn’t sound like you work in a family-owned business or similar, your supervisor should not be supervising her son. What happens when it comes to annual performance reviews? And pay rises? This should have all been addressed when he was hired, assuming he was hired on merit, with clear guidelines in place.

I think you have good cause to speak with someone else at work about how this is unfolding and ask for it to be addressed. You are not being a troublemaker since issues like this can fester and erode trust across the organisation, as well as make other employees feel disengaged just like you. Is there another supervisor or manager you feel you can speak with? I think you need to explain what is happening and let them know how it is impacting you personally and your feelings about the role. I would let them know you really love your job but this is impacting your mental health and ability to fully engage at work and you would like them to find a solution.

I’m junior in my career and have been lucky enough to land a high-paying job. However I feel stuck and I’m not growing professionally. I’ve been at my company for more than four years and I’m feeling unhappier every day. I’m in probably the most high-paying industry for my experience level and field, so I would take a $30,000 pay cut if I left. Should I move to grow my skills or stay?

At some point everyone experiences feeling a little stale in their role, just as you have described. When we are not being pushed or encouraged to expand ourselves at work, it is easy to feel stuck. I would recommend exploring any internal opportunities that may be available to you first so that you can stay on your current pay level and perhaps even get a pay rise to take on a promotion. Set a time to speak with your manager to ask them about internal opportunities to extend yourself. Let them know you are feeling stuck and that you are not growing in the role – they will appreciate you having the drive, ambition and motivation to want to progress. They will also know that if they want to keep you, they will need to find a pathway for you.

If that fails, then you may need to look outside for a role that will challenge and excite you. Now is a good time for employees to negotiate with potential employers given the tight labour market so it is well worth asking for what you currently earn or even a little more.

I was formerly working in a customer service role with a major firm. From the start, there were issues and I decided to leave. I’m now in a new role where my endeavours are appreciated but I feel for the colleagues I left behind who have to deal with ongoing mismanagement and system breakdown. My question is whether I should contact senior management at my former job and lay out to them all the issues? I have nothing to gain other than to help future staff who at this stage will continue to suffer under an inadequate system. Or, should I just drop it?

If I were you, I would move on. You are in a role you are enjoying now where you feel valued and appreciated. I suspect you would end up feeling frustrated at the lack of response you would most likely get from contacting your former employer now and it is probably unrealistic to think anything you report will lead to a widespread cultural and systemic overhaul. Enjoy your new workplace culture and don’t look back.

Send your questions about work, careers and leadership to [email protected] Your name and any identifying information will not be used. Letters may be edited.

Dr Kirstin Ferguson is a company director, executive coach and author. She is also an Adjunct Professor at the QUT Business School and former Deputy Chair of the ABC.

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