‘JT & Dale Talk Jobs’ is the largest nationally syndicated career advice column in the country and can be found at JTandDale.com.
Dear J.T. and Dale: I work for a family-owned business. The owner has four daughters and no sons. None of the daughters are interested in the business. I can see he is grooming me for the job, yet has said on multiple occasions he wants to keep the business “in the family.” This summer, at a barbecue at his house, his wife dropped a hint it would make their lives easier if I married one of their daughters — talk about awkward! I really love the job, but my girlfriend now hates me working there. What should I do? — John
J.T.: I think you should have a formal conversation with your boss. Tell him that if he’s open to grooming you to be his successor, you want to make that happen. Don’t mention the daughters. (I’m sure he knows his wife shouldn’t have said anything.) Once you set a plan in place, your girlfriend will know things are under control and won’t feel threatened.
Dale: I’d be curious to know, John, how many of the guys who read your question thought to themselves, “I’d like to meet those daughters.” And, no, I’m not taking your question lightly. Your boss has four chances for one of his daughters to marry a decent businessman, and for the new guy to be thought of as “the son I never had.”
J.T.: Ouch. However, I don’t think it would be that easy for John to be pushed aside. It will be even harder if you can get your boss to agree on the steps that need to be taken for a transition.
Dale: Perhaps. But having worked in family businesses, I urge you to embrace The “Half As” Rule — that’s one “s,” not two. If someone in the family is half as good as you are, they’ll be promoted above you. So I urge you to have the conversation that J.T. is suggesting sometime soon. And there’s also The 50 Percent Rule — if you don’t own at least 50 percent, you don’t rule your future. So I’d suggest you use your position to become well-known in the community, keeping your options open.
Jeanine “J.T.” Tanner O’Donnell is a professional development specialist and the founder of the consulting firm, JTODonnell.com, and of the blog, CAREEREALISM.com. Dale Dauten resolves employment and other business disputes as a mediator with AgreementHouse.com.
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