Q- I’m a new regional manager operating a small portfolio owned by a local family. There is a non-family head of operations that I report to. She has been in place for several years building a solid team throughout the company. I have inherited some notable examples in my assigned region. I mention all this because I’ve recently been made aware of an awkward situation at one of my properties. One of the owners has a son-in-law that has recently graduated from college and been recruited to get involved with the “family business.” With no input from myself and no buy-in from the property manager this son-in-law has been hired and after an informal orientation, assigned to my largest property as assistant manager. Don’t get me wrong, I like the young man. He has some people skills and some experience as a shift manager at a restaurant while going to college. However, there seems to be the underlying idea that he will pick it up as he goes; how hard could it be? Meanwhile, the manager does not want to assign too much so she is doling assignments out piece meal. She is probably also worried that if he knows everything her job is at risk. I don’t know but she is not herself. She has mentioned that Jeff (not his name) probably believes that our rules don’t apply to him. She’s mentioned Jeff has been late several times, left for personal appointments in the middle of his shift, and during an average work week he’s not in team attire at least twice. When my manager mentions these things it’s not with any discipline rendered or discussed. The definite impression is growing that regardless of her or my opinion, we need to adjust to the idea. I don’t want to misstep here. I love my job. I respect my leader and this company. I have never run into this before, but I know this situation is not good for my team or my leadership. Help.
A- Hmm. First, let me ask. Do you believe that your file leader is aware and cares about this situation? You have framed up your concerns meticulously but with no mention of a frank discussion with the one person that is probably aware of the initial intent by ownership. You have mentioned that she has experience communicating with the owner(s) while building a solid team over time. It’s possible that you and your property manager are coming to conclusions without the benefit of the experienced leadership available to you. So, to do good for your team you need understanding. Don’t assume. Ask. Likelihood is that because some shortcuts were taken to expedite hiring, combined with informal orientation, combined with simplifications in the communications between family members that what we have is that a well-intended young man has been accidentally “set up to fail.” This happens more than you might think. You and your property manager might be delighted to discover that the father-in-law had only one request of the head of operations; “please put Jeff under the direction of your best regional and best property manager. Jeff is a smart young man and needs to learn what are “best practices” in our business.” Good news is that the solution is easily fixed by confronting and correcting misunderstandings. Everybody has a good laugh and then gets to work. Please keep me in the loop.