my coworker keeps asking his wife for input on our projects

A reader writes:

I work in a sales organization in an industry that is fairly conservative and reputation-driven. I work in marketing and interface with sales staff quite often. There is a salesperson who is fairly new to our organization and industry who does a couple of odd and, I think, unprofessional things that I think down the line could hurt his reputation and make people hesitant to work with him. (I know it’s already done that for me and other people on my team.) I am wondering if there is a kind and professional way for me to tell him that the things he does come across weirdly, or if I should just leave it alone.

First off, his dad works at my company and has for almost 30 years. He is a senior VP and has some of our biggest accounts, and he is absolutely the reason that this salesperson got his job (which is not unheard of in our company, but his situation is different in a few ways that make this especially Not Great). This salesperson, whenever mentioning his dad in conversation refers to him as “my dad.” As in, “My dad wanted to do ABC instead of XYZ.” It strikes me and the other people in my department as really weird, and it’s become a bit of a running joke with people in the office that he is a daddy’s boy or a nepotism hire.

The second thing is that when I or one of my team members works on a project with him, he tells us he is going to have his wife look at it, then tells us what she thinks we should do and pretty much expects us to implement it. Sometimes he will even hold up projects while he waits for her feedback. It’s never caused us to miss a deadline, but it is still frustrating.

I definitely understand looking to someone outside your organization who has expertise in a certain area for advice, but that is not what’s happening here. His wife doesn’t have knowledge in our industry or context for the things we work on, and her suggestions are often just flat-out bad. It feels a little insulting and it makes us think that he has no idea what he’s doing and has to rely on his wife to tell him what to do.

I would guess that this salesperson is in his mid-20’s, which I am as well, so I understand that sometimes it’s not always obvious that something you’re doing is unprofessional. I feel like it might be kind to tell him that these things make people take him less seriously (and they really do), but I am not senior to him in any way and don’t work with him very often, so I do feel a little bit like I don’t have the standing to say anything. Any advice is much appreciated!

Whoa, yeah, the “I need to run this by my wife” thing is weird. And annoying. And unprofessional.

The “my dad” thing isn’t great, but it’s pretty minor. It’s the sort of thing that someone closer to him — or his boss — should tell him to stop doing, because it’s reflecting badly on him. But as a peer who doesn’t sound particularly close to him, you probably don’t have standing to do it. (You still could, of course — and it would be a huge favor to him — but it’s not really your problem to solve, and you’d risk making things awkward between the two of you, especially if he disagrees.)

But you absolutely have standing to comment on the wife thing because it’s impacting you! It’s holding up projects and it’s resulting in changes from her feedback. You get to say something about this one.

In situations where someone is doing something bizarre, often the best strategy is to let your natural surprise and confusion show. By hiding that, you’re letting him that no one thinks what he’s doing is weird. Your reaction is a very normal one, so just have it in front of him next time. For example, the next time he says he’s going to have his wife look at something, say this: “Wait, why is your wife looking at this?”

That is a reasonable, normal question to ask in these circumstances.

If he says that she has good input or something like that, then say this: “But I’m confused — does she work in our industry? How come you’re running things by her?”

At some point in this conversation, you can say: “Well, of course it’s your prerogative to talk over your work with your wife if you want to, but we shouldn’t be holding up projects or changing our work based on the input of someone who doesn’t work here and doesn’t work in our field, and definitely not without making her a formal part of the project. So unless you want to talk to (higher-up) about making her involvement official — which it doesn’t sound like there’s cause to do — I think we need to move forward and do XYZ like we planned.”

And honestly, if he keeps including her after that, it would be reasonable to give his boss a heads-up. As in: “Fergus has repeatedly held up projects so he could get input from his wife, and he’s asked us to change our plans based on her input. She doesn’t work in this field and doesn’t seem to have any particular expertise in what we’re doing. I’ve asked him to stop, but he’s continuing to invoke her. Could you ask him to stop doing that, since it’s adding time to projects and taking us off-course?”

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 304 comments… read them below }

  1. Snark*

    “My dad” strikes me as name-dropping.

    “I need to ask my wife” sounds like a joke. Why would someone so explicitly devalue their own expertise and ability?

    1. VioletEMT*

      Yeah…. When I worked for my dad back in the day I bent over backwards to avoid the association, especially with clients.

      1. Snark*

        I worked on my parents’ furniture delivery truck. I referred to them as Julie and Steve, or not at all. I didn’t give anybody any reason to think I was the boss’ kid.

    2. ZVA*

      I don’t think it’s necessarily name-dropping. I work at my father’s company (& closely with him), and I always refer to him by his first name, but it was hard for me to get used to at first (because I never do this at home, it felt super weird to me). I even had a coworker tell me SHE thought it was weird for me to use his first name, knowing that he’s my dad!

      Anyway, I do think “my dad” is inappropriate for the workplace, but I don’t think he’s necessarily name-dropping; my guess is he’s newer to the working world and doesn’t know how he’s coming off. It would be a kindness for someone to tell him, but maybe not the OP, since it sounds like she doesn’t have the standing to do so…

      1. Sarah*

        God, I’m glad I never worked closely enough with my dad for this to be an issue (despite working for companies in the same umbrella organization) – anytime I talked about him it was never in a work context, so while people usually put two and two together waaaaaaaay more quickly than I wanted them to (yay having a unique last name in a tight-knit industry) this particular hurdle wasn’t one I faced.

        I’d say the person in the letter should refer to their dad the same way they’d refer to anybody else at that level when talking about them, and I’d probably avoid using his name when in direct conversation with him outside of closed-door situations. So it’d be “Great point,” instead of “Great point, Carl” or whatever.

        But again, not something the OP needs to deal with, just thinking through how I’d handle it.

      2. Chinook*

        “Anyway, I do think “my dad” is inappropriate for the workplace, but I don’t think he’s necessarily name-dropping; my guess is he’s newer to the working world and doesn’t know how he’s coming off. ”

        I agree but I learned this rule in school from the teachers’ kids. No one ever called their parent Mom or Dad during school hours if they ran into them in the hall (they rarely taught their own children if possible). The only time it might slip out is after hours if they were asking them something in the parent/child role like “can I go to Jack’s house after school.”

        Keeping the names specific to a role helps to establish real boundaries when work and home combine. as another example, Dh is Cst. Chinook when I see him in public and in uniform because, at that moment, he is not my DH and I should not be treated any differently than any other member of the public (which is why I hate picking him up after work in uniform – there is an unspoken threat of getting a traffic ticket in the back of my mind even if he knows better than to pull that stunt if I slowly roll through a stop sign on a deserted street).

        1. SarahKay*

          I was a teacher’s kid, and it sucked. Not so much with other pupils, but if I needed to ask for him at the staffroom for whatever reason.
          Process was that if you wanted a teacher you’d knock at the door, one of them would answer and you’d ask for whoever. Problem was that if I said “Could I speak to my dad, please?” then I’d have managed to get a teacher who didn’t know who my dad was and would look blank, and ask did I mean I wanted to make a phone call, or what.
          Okay, fine, so next time I’d ask “Could I speak to Mr SarahKay, please?” At which point it would be a teacher who knew this was my dad and thought it was hilarious that I asked for Mr SarahKay, and I’d hear him saying something like “I say, [Dad’s firstname], there’s someone who wants to speak to Mr SarahKay” chuckle, chuckle. And all the while 12 year-old-and-very-shy me wanted to die of embarrassment.
          OP, hopefully the new salesperson will either pick up or be gently coached on the “My Dad” thing by a friend or manager, and will stop. In which case, if you hear anyone mocking him (hopefully highly unlikely!) for saying Mr Dad’s-surname, please stop them.

        2. mrs__peel*

          I’ve had the opposite happen!

          My mother was the nurse at one of the schools I attended. I’ve always called my parents by their first names, and one of my teachers was absolutely SCANDALIZED by this and insisted that I had to call her “Mom” whenever I was on school grounds. It felt very strange!

          1. Bryce*

            According to my parents my brother and I caught on quickly that other people called them by their first names so we refused to use Mom and Dad because “that’s not your name”. I don’t recall any issues with teachers, because my mom was a substitute in a small town without much turnover so anyone I had to interact with was usually someone who had known me since I was a toddler.

        3. Kelsi*

          Haha this teacher’s kid always called Mom Mom at school. It was a small elementary school, so it wasn’t like there was anyone who didn’t know she was my mother.

        4. Melanie*

          If my DH gave me a ticket while I was picking him up from work that would be the last time he gets picked up. Also there would be h*ll to pay at home.

      3. Hapless Bureaucrat*

        Yeah, that seems likely. But, though it seems weird to say, this is something his dad could have discouraged. It relects on him, too, and not well. When I worked at the same organization as my father, we both made a point not to refer to the relationship except with people like my boss who knew us well. I had to give my dad instructions and assignments from time to time (he was a senior in a division but I worked in an organization-wide coordinating role) and relay his instructions. I tended to refer to him as First Name Last Name… or even just Last Name. That mimicked the way my boss referred to him. It was weird for awhile, sure, but dad was even more concerned than I was that I should get to make my own reputation at work. Eight years later, as I was leaving, there were still people who were shocked to find out we were related.
        I know people watched how we handled the situation, because when I took a promotion to another part of the organization my new boss commented that he’d been impressed with our handling of it. We’re in the public sector, so familial relationships are not uncommon, but no one really teaches you to navigate them either. It can be a trap for the young (or not so young) if they’re not careful.

    3. Amber T*

      If you do work with a relative that you don’t call by their name (mom/dad/grandma/grandpa), when mentioning them (assuming it’s an appropriate work related context), how should you say their name? Assuming everyone knows they’re related, should he switch to “Joe said we should do this” instead of “my dad?”

      (Thinking of making it more formal like “my father,” but now all I can picture is Draco Malfoy, which probably isn’t a good association.)

      1. Snark*

        I think “Joe” or “Mr. Smith” would be fine. I referred to my parents by their names when I worked for my parents’ business briefly.

      2. ZVA*

        Yes, I’d say refer to the relative by their first name. “Joe said we should do this,” etc. I think “my father” is problematic for the same reason that “my dad” is—it’s invoking a familial relationship when this should be first and foremost a work relationship, relative or not. (And ha, yes, “my father” is distinctly Malfoy-esque.)

      3. Sorkie*

        I have a family nickname for my aunt who I worked with when I first started out. The name thing got solved easily – I called her by her name when I spoke about her and the nickname when I spoke to her.

    4. shep*

      I work with my mom and I had fully intended to refer to her by her name, but literally everyone in the office refers to her as “your mom” when talking to me. It mortified me at first, but a few years later, I’ve gotten used to it. We also hardly have need to work collaboratively at all, so it rarely comes up.

      But yeah, to use it in the way this person seems to be–to highlight the relationship and appearing to use it as an additional piece of personal authority–is absolutely off-putting.

    5. Artemesia*

      I know people who works in the same firm with their parents, in one case, Dad is boss and they agreed that on the job, Dad would be ‘Bill’ like he is to everyone else. ‘Dad’ should have dealt with this when sonny boy went to work at his company.

      And the wife thing? No words. My husband has occasionally run things by me and he has had some good advice for my work — although neither of us is in the other’s field; using a spouse as a sounding board is not unusual. Of course neither of us would ever say on the job ‘I have to run that by my spouse’ or say ‘My wife things we should do it this way.’ Yikes. Way to make yourself look like a clueless dweeb.

      1. Samata*

        Yes, this is where I land. I often ask my partner (not in industry) for thoughts on how something might come across, if I am missing something, etc. But I have NEVER held up a work project or even hinted to anyone in the office that I actually do this.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Yeah, I’ve casually helped with things like “try out this prototype and see if you can figure out how to turn it on” but no one was waiting on my input.

          (My input was that if a personal electronic asks me to slowly and awkwardly key in my first name, then my last name, before it will function, then it has been very badly designed.)

        2. Artemesia*

          LOL. Exactly. My son and daughter both have sought my advice on work issues, not so much technical issues, although I actually have helped my daughter on those too, and this advice has been useful to them. I don’t provide it unless it is asked for. And I am darn sure my son has never said ‘My Mom says . . .’ on the job.

    6. What?*

      It actually shocks me that there’s any issue with “my dad.” He’s supposed to refer to his dad by his first name? Now if he was bringing it up all the time and it seemed like name dropping, I could see the problem, but if his work regularly includes interacting with his dad, I don’t see how, “My dad looked over the report and has comments on the January figures,” is bad.

      1. Annonymouse*

        In a family business it’s not a big deal.

        At a Fortune 500 company, yeah it’s not professional. You’d refer to them by name (John/Mr Doe) or title (the VP of finance/CEO etc).

        We know it’s your dad but bringing them up like that in a serious professional setting doesn’t reflect well on an understanding of boundaries and business norms.

  2. Stephanie*

    Yeah, I had a similar thing happen when a classmate said she needed to ask her dad about how to run her lab experiments. -_-

  3. Helpful*

    I think it’s good practice to call a parent by their first names in these situations, if it’s warranted to be talking about them at all.

    1. OP*

      I’m with you! Since he works directly under his dad and is involved in a lot of projects with him, he definitely has to mention him, but I cringe a little bit whenever he said “my dad.”

      1. Bend & Snap*

        My sister works with our dad. She calls him by his first name and they have different last names, so only a few people know the connection, and she’s been able to build her reputation on her own merit.

        1. OP*

          That such a big part of why this strikes me as weird. He’s brand new to our industry and to our company, and I know if I were in that position I would want people to see me as my own person who is professional and knowledgeable. And instead he seems to be leaning so hard not just on his dad, but also on his wife, and it just makes him look like he doesn’t know anything or is so not-confident in himself that he has to prop himself up with his dad’s position and his wife’s approval. It’s just so, so weird to me.

          1. Annonymouse*

            Maybe he’s mentioning his dad so much to get preferential treatment/force his wife’s ideas through?

            As in my wife says we should do X and my dad is working on y.

            The my dad thing is annoying and could be problematic if it means you’re not able to push back on his bad ideas or give him negative feedback or reprimands.

            But you really should push back on the wife thing. If she doesn’t work there then her feedback/ideas mean squat and shouldn’t factor into any decisions made.

            Please tell him that using Alison’s scripts.

            “I think we should implement my wife’s ideas.”

            “I didn’t know she worked in a senior role here or had an our industry consulting business.”

            “She doesn’t.”

            “Then it doesn’t make sense to use her ideas or implement them as she has no industry knowledge or experience. In fact, given those circumstances, why do you keep holding up our projects to get her feedback and try to make us action it?”

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yes! My husband works in his family business, and he and his brother refer to their mom by her first name whenever they’re talking about anything work-related (even if the two of them are the only ones in the conversation). You just can’t be referring to “mom” in a work meeting.

      1. Mary*

        Or if that feels too weird, at least by a shortened version of their title or function! “I checked with the VP of Finance and he said…” “Payroll say we should…” both sound a lot less weird than “my dad”.

        1. Karo*

          I feel like this could work for a little while, but eventually it would feel like a power play to me. To keep saying “the VP of Finance told me to do x” would start to feel like the guy was trying to overrule other people because it was a VICE PRESIDENT that told him, in a way that “Fergus told me to do X” doesn’t, even though everyone knows Fergus is the VP.

        2. Triplestep*

          I work with someone who turns people off when he says he’s going to consult with the Director of Thus&Such because everyone knows it is his mother. And someone in his role would not normally have direct access to this person.

          1. Mary*

            That feels like the problem is the access rather than using the title, though?

            I have something similar – I am friends outside work with someone who is in the senior management team, and if we see each other at work about things like how our kids are and other out-of-work activities. My team knows we know each other outside of work, but I try and make sure I’m not playing the “Actually, MY FRIEND EMMA SAYS…” card, and I deliberately don’t talk about work stuff with her.

            However, at the moment she’s also convening a strategy group soon that I really, really want to be part of, and I’ve expressed this to both my manager and my manager’s manager, and they’ve said sure in theory but I don’t know whether or not the message is getting passed on. (They have said “sure in theory” to a couple of other things that just gently drifted off the agenda, and I’m just starting to think that I need to be a bit more persistent.)

            The stated culture of the organisation is very much “open door, transparent, you should be able to go and talk to members of senior management about concerns without prejudice and there are specific opportunities to do so”, and I’m trying to decide whether “hey, can I be on this strategy group?” is something I can legitimately do or whether it’ll seriously piss people off!

      2. Liane*

        College Son didn’t call me “Mom” when we had shifts together at the same seasonal job a year or 2 ago. I was Liane to him until we got home. And he didn’t need anyone to tell him this was a good idea.

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Totally agree. The “my dad” thing is super inappropriate, but I get why it might go over better from a manager. I would have a really hard time (as a peer) not saying something.

    4. michelenyc*

      When I worked with my Mom at the same company. Never did I refer to her as Mom when having a professional conversation. I used her first name. I knew this at 23. I never had to be told.

      1. PainScientist*

        When volunteering with my mother as a teenager I usually did this (or used Mrs our-last-name in the few situations it called for) when talking to other people without being told – and it’s not like there’d be a question in their minds who my mother was, since I’m basically a clone of her. Speaking to her I would often address her as ‘mother’ or ‘mom’, but even then I think I typically said her first name. I think I did that even more consistently when she became volunteer coordinator rather than another volunteer.

    5. NoHose*

      Heck, even as a Scout leader, my son won’t call me Mom in front of the other kids. It’s “Hey, Scouter NoHose…”

      The “My dad” thing is weird. Checking with his wife is beyond weird.

  4. Here we go again*

    The my dad thing, I can get… I mean, it is his dad after all, who does work there and saying your own parent’s name at any age seems strange…But his wife?!?! Who has no level of expertise in what you are doing? I think asking friends and family for a professional opinion can be fine as long as it is (a.) limited and (b.) they have some level of subject matter expertise. This is just weird.

    1. OP*

      Maybe it’s weird to me because I grew up calling my parents a combination of “mom” and “dad” and their first names, so using a parent’s name isn’t weird to me? I can see why people would be okay with it. I’ve definitely gotten mixed reactions on that one but it is so thoroughly weird to me!

      1. animaniactoo*

        I work in a family run company – 2nd generation referred to 1st generation as “my father”, 3rd generation *usually* refers to the parentals by their first name when referencing them to other people for anything that is business related. Once in awhile if they say “my parent”, it flies right by – probably because they at least work to use the first names most of the time.

      2. Chameleon*

        Calling my parents by their first names would skeeve me out something awful. But I don’t work with either of them. (Although…I did have a mentorship training with my mom for about three weeks once. I didn’t usually refer to her at all in front of our clients, though.)

        1. Mandy*

          Funny little family story–my paternal grandfather always called his wife “Honey” so my dad, as a very young child, assumed that is what she was supposed to be called. So he called his mother Honey. It ended up becoming her life-long nickname that she went by with everyone.

          1. Marion's granddaughter*

            My grandmother was somehow nicknamed “Babe” as a child, and it stuck all through adulthood. She passed away before I was born, and I was unaware of the nickname until I was going through her letters from WWII era and wondering why both my grandfather and her brothers and cousins were writing to her as if she was their sweetheart.

      3. Mandy*

        It can feel weird. I usually never use my parents’ given names. When I was still living at home, I would only use it when in a large crowd trying to get their attention when “Mom” or “Dad” wouldn’t necessarily get it.

        “Dad! Dad–George!”

    2. Zinnia*

      No – it’s really much stranger to call a parent you work with mom or dad when at work. I’ve worked with parents and children multiple times in multiple organizations and they never called each other or referred to each other by anything but their name. In my experience, using Mom or Dad for a coworker-parent is just not done.

    3. PB*

      I agree with this. I volunteered at my father’s school once, and did refer to him as “Mr. Lastname,” but it felt weird to do so. I could understand why he’d refer to his father as “my dad.”

      The wife thing I can’t get passed. I have occasionally referred questions to family members when they have an expertise I don’t. For example, I needed to know how to pronounce a number of locations in Croatia, and my mother’s studied Croatian, so I called her and asked. But when the person has no connection to your work? And it’s holding up other people? Yeah, that is a huge problem.

        1. JamieS*

          Yeah that’s my issue too. To me, it sounds like “Fergus” is bringing up his dad unnecessarily either for leverage or because he can’t think for himself. Although if that’s the case switching to calling the dad by his first name wouldn’t fix the major issue.

        2. Kathleen Adams*

          See, I don’t get that. Everybody knows this person is his dad, so I don’t personally think Saying the Thing Everyone Knows to Be True is at all like name-dropping. For me, it wouldn’t matter if he called him “my dad” or “Mr. Thistlebottom” or “Earl” – all of those sound perfectly fine to me.

          But deferring to his wife? Who has no expertise in this area? When they’re on a deadline?

          That’s just weird weird weird weird.

    4. MuseumMusings*

      I worked under my mother for a couple of summers and while it was a completely informal workplace (everyone called everyone else by their first name), I called her “Mrs. Musings” instead of her first name. At times people would refer to her as “your mom” but I never, ever called her “Mom” at work. I was highly aware that despite the fact that I was good at my job I could be considered a nepotism hire and did my best to be ultra formal and polite and keep work life and family life separate.

      1. Jay*

        My father and grandfather practiced medicine together and I worked in their office in the summer during college. I always, always, referred to them as Dr. L or Dr. S to everyone – including the women I worked with who had known me since I was a toddler. They would say “your father” or “your grandfather” to me if no one else was around (as in “Could you please tell me what your father wrote here? It’s completely illegible”) but in front of patients it was always “Dr L.” When I addressed them, I called them “Doctor” without the name, and that worked fine. And no, nobody had to tell me to do that.

    5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Even I feel it feels odd, people call their relatives by their names at work because that’s what’s expected in the workplace, no? It doesn’t sound like this is a tiny family business, which is one of the only places where this might not be as weird. When my mom became a teacher at my school, I definitely called her “Mrs. Teapot-Designer,” and I was 12!

      I get why it may not feel natural, but it sounds like going with “my dad” is contributing to the idea that Op’s coworker is unqualified/underqualified for the job.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        I went to a small private school. One of the girls in my class was the daughter of a 5th grade teacher. Obviously she wasn’t in his section, but she had to take his math class by default, and she always referred to him as “Mr. B”. So same deal, same reasons, and that strikes me as the best/most sensible way to handle such things.

      2. Elemeno P.*

        Yeah, I think a tiny family business is the only place that this works. My family has a small business, and while it’s primarily run by my grandma, mom, and aunt, everyone in the family has worked there briefly at some point or other. We all have general product and sales knowledge, but have to check on specific prices and procedures if we’re helping out when we visit. “I have to ask my grandma” actually comes off as charming to the customers (and helps excuse our knowledge gaps), but it definitely would not seem like that if we were at a major establishment.

        1. Chinook*

          Elemeno P – is that you sis? I think even my you niece at 5 is allowed to get away with calling the boss “grandma” when she is working in the store but I bet she will change that once she grows up a but and insists on being paid in something other than Happy Meals, especially once she starts to realize that the adults are not using “mom” when we are there. The customers do think it is cute and is part of the charm of the store, though, when she says they have to wait for grandma to come from the back because she can’t add yet (but she is awesome for getting stock to and from the bottom shelves).

        2. Miso*

          When I was a student, I worked for a supermarket that was run by a married couple. The adult daughter often helped, too.
          They all called each other Mr./Mrs. Smith in front of us… Now THAT was weird. (Oh, and at the same time they used informal language. Super weird.)

    6. Betsy Bobbins*

      I get that it might be uncomfortable at first, but after awhile it will become ordinary. My husband coached my daughters soccer team for over twelve years, she called him ‘Coach’ the entire time. It was strange at first but they both agreed that was the best to create appropriate boundaries for both their sake as well as the entire team. On the field he was coach, in the car he was back to being dad, ultimately it made life a lot easier for them both.

      And while it might be strange for the child to call their parent a name they are not used to, it’s also strange for all the co workers to hear it, so better for one person to deal with the awkwardness until they get used to it than for everyone else to suffer with the cringe that the name dropping will cause indefinitely.

  5. Helpful*

    OP, do you have any authority here, like being a team lead or something? If so, that’ll help. Otherwise, with the wife thing, id say, “This decision needs to be made by our team. The deadline is xyz so we can move forward.” Then id redirect: “Carol, what about the spout backorder?” Don’t even entertain a convo about how or why wife is involved. Just skim past it and don’t allow it to hold you up. Best of luck to you.

    1. OP*

      I have pretty much no authority! That’s one reason I was so unsure about whether I should say anything. A lot of sales staff I work with trust my opinion and listen to me, but I basically no authority.

      The way I’ve been dealing with it up until has pretty much been ignoring it (e.g. he will CC her on something and say he wants her to look at it, and I will not “Reply All” so she doesn’t see my response or the rest of our thread). It seems like a combination of what you’re saying and what Alison is saying will be my best bet! Thank you!

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Wait, WHAT? He’s cc’ing his wife on work emails? I thought he was just asking for her opinion. This is much, much worse. I am floored by this. No advice at the moment (I think I need to process this), but dude, this is so wrong.

          1. Amber T*

            That’s my concern – I guess it could be industry specific, but if I cc’ed a partner/loved one/ anyone outside the company on one of my emails so they could check my work and give me input, I’d be fired, and rightly so.

          2. Snark*

            Confidentiality may not be an issue, but I’ve always just kind of assumed that you don’t discuss detailed business information with non-colleagues.

          3. OP*

            The kinds of things we work on with him aren’t a confidentiality issue, but if this is something he carried over to other parts of his job (which I don’t think he would but I can’t be sure) it definitely could be.

            1. HRJeanne*

              OP, I can’t imagine that he didn’t sign a non-disclosure agreement at the time of hiring. He is violating this by copying her on emails. If one of my employees were doing this, I would want to know immediately. Plus, its totally nuts.

              1. Natalie*

                NDAs aren’t really some kind of universal; it’s not at all odd to not sign one. He’s still running afoul of professional norms, of course.

        1. AndersonDarling*

          If he is ccing his wife on the emails, and if regular methods don’t stop these shenanigans, then I would start pestering the wife directly and treating her like a contractor. “I received your comments on the Acme Project. I incorporated your suggestions and attached a second draft. Please redline and return by 3pm today. We will also need an executive summary ready for review by the end of the week.”
          That should quickly end her involvement.
          If anyone says anything, I would say that I thought she was a contractor since Salesperson kept sending her his work.

            1. AvonLady Barksdale*

              But… what if she does it and then sends an invoice? I kind of want to see all this roll out and get a full report from the OP.

          1. Annonymouse*

            Yes please!
            Also try and make her explain the details of implementation for her ideas and pick holes in them.

            “As you know from working in industry doing x violates y law. Please come up with another solution that stays within the law.”

            “Doing x would cost tens of thousands of dollars. Can you give me a detailed analysis of cost effectiveness?”

            “How would we implement this idea? If you could put together a presentation for our clients/team on costs, processes in time for our Monday morning meeting.” (Please send this on a Friday).

            Make it so annoying for her that she snaps at her husband.

            “Stop involving me in your work! I don’t want OP emailing me about projects and implementation and processes. Do your own damn job and leave me out of it!”

        2. Sam*

          WOW. Yeah, that’s super unprofessional and beyond ridiculous. At least forward it to her separately, come on…

      2. Foreign Octopus*

        What about your manager? Or the person the next rung up from you?

        Please tell me it’s not his dad.

        1. OP*

          My manager isn’t his dad, but HIS manager is his dad. My manager knows this is going on, and since there aren’t confidentiality issues with what we’re working on with him we’ve basically all taken the “ignore it and roll our eyes when he mentions it” attitude.

            1. babblemouth*

              Yes, that’s also not appropriate. This is slowly moving from a very weird situation to “maybe consider getting out of there.”

              1. OP*

                This is in no way anything that I would ever consider leaving over. It is such a minor annoyance and not indicative at all of larger cultural problems. Folks here really do not have the full context for what it’s like working here or this situation, but this issue is such a minor annoyance and, like I said before, the only reason I am even thinking about saying something is because it would be a kindness from me to him, letting him know that this thing he’s doing is unprofessional.

            2. OP*

              No, there definitely are not larger issues, at least not that I’ve ever seen. This company actually has an incredibly healthy culture and does a lot to appreciate/retain employees. That’s part of why this situation is so weird to me; no other pairs of relatives work that closely.

      3. serenity*

        It sounds like you definitely should be letting *your* boss know about this. CC’ing the wife on work-related emails is just a no-go, and (depending on your field/industry) can have security/integrity implications as well. You must tell your manager.

        1. OP*

          My manager definitely knows about it; we are a tight-knit team with a pretty informal structure. And like I said above, there aren’t confidentiality issues with the kinds of things he’s showing his wife we’ve all just kind of ignored it/joked about it up to this point.

          Since we do work in an industry that handles potentially sensitive information, if I thought that was an issue at all I definitely would have brought it some someone’s attention, but I don’t think this is something that warrants being turned into a Thing.

        1. OP*

          It might be a while before my next project with him, but when I get the chance to say something I will definitely email an update!

      4. Observer*

        That’s insane. In addition to all of the good advice you are getting, check your company’s confidentiality and related policies. He may be seriously violating policy here, in which case you need to speak to your or his manager.

      5. Bagpuss*

        This is incredibly weird, and I would definitely report it to your own line manager, and perhaps as for guidance = explicitly say “[Name] is cc-ing his wife into internal e-mails about team projects we’re working on. He also regularly tells us he needs to wait for her input / feedback before we can move forward with projects, so it’s actually causing delays. How do you want us to deal with this? ”

        If you have any kind of internal e-mail or confidentiality policies I’d refer to them.

        I also think you could deal with it directly – maybe “Hey Fred, you seem to have accidentally added Jane to the cc list. I’ve taken her address off for this reply as she isn’t a member of the team, can you remember not to copy team e-mails to anyone outside the team, unless we all agree to loop in anyone else?”

        I think it is more difficult if this has been going on for a long time but I think you could still give it a whirl!

        The ‘Dad’ thing is weird but I would be less concerned about it, I’d only mention that if you were on friendly terms with him and could mention that it comes over as unprofessional, but it doesn’t sound as though you’re on those terms!

      6. Triplestep*

        If he’s CCing her, I wonder if he thinks of the company as a family business. His father is there, after all, and he’s working under him. He was clearly hired because his father is an exec and he’s probably always had the idea that he would work there some day (similar to lot of children whose families have businesses.) Maybe his frame of reference for these things is that CCing the wife is SOP. For all we know, she is part of a family business with her parents and CC’s him on e-mails!

        Not that this would excuse anything, but it sure would explain why he thinks this is acceptable behavior. Just something to consider along with options for dealing with it; it might help to think about how HE may be thinking of it.

        1. Doodle*

          This is late, but Triplestep says the first thing that makes sense to me about what the guy is thinking. If this is “family business,” then maybe the whole family (dad, mom, coworker, wife) all chat about this stuff regularly.

  6. Murphy*

    The “my dad” thing just sounds like not understanding professional norms. Though I’m assuming that when he mentions his dad that there are work-related reasons to be mentioning his dad, as in what he should be doing is saying “Senior VP Fergus says we should do ABC” rather than him bringing up his dad for no reason.

  7. animaniactoo*

    “I understand that you like to run things by your wife, but from our standpoint, we hired you – not your wife. I’d like to know what YOU think about it.”

    1. Antilles*

      In his post (and follow-up comments here), it’s clear that this is one of OP’s peers, not a subordinate. So while your sentiment is reasonable, OP doesn’t have the authority to call him out on it so directly.
      The group manager should say exactly that though. I can’t even imagine one of my subordinates saying that in a meeting or discussion.

      1. WellRed*

        Well, she may not have authority to make him stop, but as his peer I think she absolutely has standing to speak up, esp. if it’s holding things up.

      2. Frozen Ginger*

        Quick word swap and it still works:

        “I understand that you like to run things by your wife, but from our standpoint, you were the one who was hired – not your wife. I’d like to know what YOU think about it.”

  8. Granny K*

    I worked at a company where projects weren’t held up by spouses, but we definitely heard their input from time to time. My reply to their input most of the time was “That’s interesting, but it’s not to brand.”

  9. Mi*

    How is he meant to refer to his dad without calling him dad? Or is the point that he’s not meant to be talking about his dad at all?

    1. OP*

      There are a few other people in our company who have parents who currently or have in the past worked here, and all of them refer to their parents by their names. In fact, some of them I didn’t even know were related because they always use first names and have different last names than their parents.

      Since he works directly beneath his dad and on a lot of project with him, he definitely has occasion to mention his dad, but it always strikes me as very weird that he refers to him as “my dad” and not Fergus (not his real name). I’ve definitely gotten mixed feedback on whether this is weird and can see how some people don’t think it’s strange.

    2. thunderbird*

      I am on a board with my mother, we also do a lot of volunteer work together. In any situation that is not home-like/familial, I ALWAYS refer to her by her first name. If we are out at a meeting or event I also refer to her directly by her name as well, if I am calling on her. Keeps things straight forward and generally professional.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        Half the time when I’m out in public with my mom, I call her by her first name if I’m trying to get her attention anyway.

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          Ha, yes! I only laugh at this because a cousin of mine does this with her mother, yet I’m more inclined to yell, “MOTHER,” and if that doesn’t work, I try “Mommie Dearest”, which usually works because she haaaates it. We are a delight in public.

        2. Essie*

          This is VERY IMPORTANT to teach young children. Give them an uncommon emergency name to call you.

          My mother lectured me something awful after I had to be fished out of the swimming pool by the lifeguard. I had been calling to her frantically, but it got drowned out by fifty other kids also yelling “Mommy!” Nobody noticed the giant teen dunking me until I choked.

          1. Liane*

            We had our kids do that when we took them to cons as kids/teens, using our usernames from an RPG forum. Not only was no one else likely to have the same name, but mine is so unusual that it would have gotten the attention of a couple friends as well. Backup is great

          2. Janice*

            At the very least they should know mommy and daddy’s “real” names. I was at one of those children’s play museums where it was not uncommon for kids to wander away from their parents. (Very safe physically, employees monitoring all the displays/ sections, entering adults and children passed through security and were given matching hand stamps, no child could walk out unless accompanied by their adult) Unfortunately, one small kid wandered into a bathroom where the lights were out, the door closed behind him and he was naturally frightened and crying. I led him out and asked him what was his mommy’s name. His response “Mommy”.

            1. Snark*

              My son knows our names perfectly, but that adds a certain level of complication because my wife has a name that’s common in Israel, not common here and similar to a reasonably common American name. And Boy is at the age where Rules Are Very Important. He is also three, so he can occasionally be somewhat less than fully articulate.

              So he got lost once and spent 15 minutes arguing with the nice lady who found him what his mom’s name was.

        3. Foreign Octopus*

          I do this as well. I think my mum keeps hoping to lose me in the crowd when we’re out. I’ll try mum 3 or 4 times and then ‘Jane’ really loudly. She always looks so surprised and offended when I do that.

    3. Detective Amy Santiago*

      If he’s referring to him in a business context, i.e. “My dad and I talked about the Teapot Project” then he should use the same manner of address that the other employees use.

      If he’s talking about what he did over the weekend, i.e. “My dad and I went fishing”, that’s okay.

      1. Elsajeni*

        I work with my dad (higher ed, he’s faculty, I’m staff) and this is basically how I handle it — I’m waiting for assessment results from Dr. Lastname’s class, but last week during the Harvey flooding my dad was stranded overnight in the Dallas airport.

    4. AvonLady Barksdale*

      First name, or whatever the company’s culture is. If SVPs go by “Mr. Soandso”, then the salesperson should refer to his father the same way. A slip-up or two isn’t a big deal, but he should really make an effort to show that the relationship in the office is professional.

      When I talk with relatives about my mother or my grandparents, I often use their first names. I never call them by their first names to their faces. I don’t know why, to be honest, but it works really well. So this doesn’t seem too off-base to me.

    5. A Good Jess*

      I work in the same organization as my husband, who is much higher up than I am. I refer to him as Mr. Lastname in a professional context. If talking with coworkers in a personal context then I refer to him by his first name. If I run into him in the hall, I even address him as Mr. Lastname or sir (which is our workplace culture).

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          I’ve worked in several places in different industries where it wouldn’t be odd to refer to one of the higher-ups as “sir.” But I also work in the South where it’s not odd to use titles of respect to even people you don’t know, so it’s probably less weird/more common here than it would be elsewhere.

    6. Jule*

      I guess I’ll be the only one here to say that I have never called my parents by their first names and wouldn’t be able to bring myself to do so. If I were in this situation I suppose I would refer to my dad as “my father” sooner than “my dad,” and then “Mr. So-and-So”/”Mr. So-and-So, Senior” (to differentiate between father & son) if someone told me they found the sheer reminder of familial relations unprofessional. And I would feel perfectly comfortable with someone else referring to their father at work.

      1. Student*

        If you can’t manage to refer to your parents by their first names in a limited professional context like work, then you shouldn’t be working with your parents. It’s a big red flag that you are looking at them and responding to them first as their child, instead of as a professional. At work, you need to be able to separate that out to do your job correctly.

        You can’t just nod and smile at bad ideas or expensive decisions because they are your father’s ideas (and be effective at your job); you have to be able to give critical feedback, and have it be largely free of the many years of familial entanglements that occur naturally. This is exactly why many companies have rules against nepotism; many people can’t separate familial from professional.

        1. Observer*

          That’s really not necessarily true though. I’ve seen people who don’t call their parents by name who are perfectly professional – and the reverse.

          Of course, that doesn’t matter here – the OP’s coworker is off the charts, and would be no matter WHAT he called his father.

        2. Jule*

          Well, yes, most people shouldn’t be working with their parents. “It’s a big red flag that you are looking at them and responding to them first as their child, instead of as a professional”–gulp, I think the red flag is really the other way around, but those would be extreme personal issues rather than professional ones.

      2. Myrin*

        Yeah, same. I’m not in or from an English-speaking country, though, so in my case I guess my feelings just stem from a cultural difference.
        (That being said and thinking about it, I do see a difference between smaller and bigger businesses or rather maybe between whether I know for a fact that everyone I’m speaking to knows that Ms. Thinksalot is my mother or not. So if I work in a group of four and they all know that one coworker in another division is my mum, I’d refer to her as my mother to these three people; but if I’m talking to twenty people from all over the company, some of whom I only know in passing, I’d say “Ms. Thinksalot”. After all, I don’t want to leave them going “Huh? Her mum? Who the heck is her mum??”)

  10. It happens*

    I don’t know the industry OP is working in, but speaking to the wife about potential future marketing plans is a big no no in most. Are employees bound by non-disclosure or confidentiality agreements?

    1. OP*

      The kinds of things we work with him on are definitely not something that would be bad for outside people to hear about (it’s mostly sales slicks and flyers for the segment of our business he works in). There are parts of our business that include working with really sensitive or personal information, but this isn’t one of them.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        This is still odd (as you know, OP!). Look, I get it. I discuss work stuff with my partner all the time, and sometimes I do take his advice. Usually I’m just venting. But that’s private and between us, and I don’t mention that to colleagues. Sometimes I’ll say, “You know, [Partner] made an interesting point when I brought this up at dinner,” but that’s in line with the culture here, and it’s always simply part of the discussion, not the strategy itself. Saying he needs to wait to discuss it with his wife is just not right.

        1. OP*

          Yeah, that definitely doesn’t make it less weird, but I think knowing this takes it from being “This is a potential security risk that management should know about” to “What a weird thing that guy is doing.”

      2. Amber T*

        Agree with AvonLady Barksdale – still super odd. The issue could also arise if/when he’s given more sensitive information, and out of a bad habit he’s formed sends it off to his wife.

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      Yeah, as someone who works in an industry with client privilege, the idea of discussing the specifics of work projects with anyone outside of work is just Not Done. I would be fired in about five minutes if I sent anything work-related to anyone not employed here, and, in some cases, outside the specific internal team working on it.

      I can see asking your spouse for generic, work-related advice. “Bob from accounting keeps biffing my expense report. What do I have to do to get this guy to cut me a check for the right amount in a timely manner?” But I could never say, “You know, I was working on X client’s project today and I found out that he’s been outsourcing document shredding of relevant materials to keep from having to turn them over. What should I say to him to get him to stop so he doesn’t get thrown in jail for contempt?”.

  11. DiscoTechie*

    The “my dad” thing makes me cringe so hard. My company at this point has at least three pairs of parents and children combos/ other family member combinations and no one refers to each with familial titles. It’s always their name with modifiers as needed, Jr or Sr.

    1. OP*

      It’s exactly the same at my company! We have three parent/child(ren) combos that I know of right now, and I’ve never heard any of them do this, they always just use their parent or child’s name.

    2. Mandy*

      The mother of one of my coworkers works in the same company though a completely different department with no authority over our department. Everyone knows Brad’s mom works at the company though he rarely mentions the fact and since her function is completely unrelated to our department it never comes up in a context of our projects and department goals. She’ll once in a blue moon stop by his desk and speak briefly but that’s it.

      (Hilariously–our work occasionally hosts a morning where parents can bring their kids in and have a snack and a short tour–we had “Donuts with Dad” and “Muffins with Mom” earlier this year. Brad’s Mom brought him a muffin.)

  12. Iris Eyes*

    I think it is great to talk problems over with your spouse, sometimes their outsider opinion can be just the thing that breaks your out of the box. I would caution people against not asking or dismissing it because “they just can’t understand” as that is pretty reminiscent of the old “she’s a delicate silly woman who shouldn’t be bothered with business things” mentality. But the level that he is taking it to is strange. If she is going to be that involved she needs to be on the payroll, so that there is some accountability for the ideas that she is implementing for starters.

    The good news is that this guy seems uncomfortable thinking for himself. So if someone with a little more patience and with some gravitas can mentor him you may have a chance of him not train-wrecking all his projects/clients. If you can get dad on board (maybe someone offers a special mentoring relationship because they see potential in him –potential to cause serious problems for the company) that would probably help a lot, if you can somehow get the wife on your side to you are golden.

    1. Helpful*

      I disagree on your comment about sexism; i would have the same reaction if it were a husband’s unqualified and unnecessary opinion slowing down decisions, etc. It could be different if they had a discussion and she had a great idea; fine. But to use her as a screen for many/frequent decisions and slow down deadlines? Nope. Absurd.

      I don’t think it’s inappropriate to use a spouse as a sounding board but I absolutely do think he is hurting his credibility and confidence in doing this.

      1. OP*

        I am with you; I’m also a woman, and this doesn’t weird me out because she’s a woman giving him advice. It weirds me out because he’s telling us that he wants to run things by his wife that she has no context for or special understanding of. She’s not in our industry, her experience has no bearing on our work, and it’s a little insulting that he thinks we need her input to do our jobs.

      2. babblemouth*

        I can picture myself talking a problem through with my boyfriend over dinner. But outright saying in a meeting “let’s wait for input from Boyfriend” when he doesn’t work here or has anything to do with out industry? That makes NO sense.

    2. Snark*

      “I think it is great to talk problems over with your spouse, sometimes their outsider opinion can be just the thing that breaks your out of the box. I would caution people against not asking or dismissing it because “they just can’t understand” as that is pretty reminiscent of the old “she’s a delicate silly woman who shouldn’t be bothered with business things” mentality.”

      No. You don’t get to devalue people’s opinions like that. It is not at all reminiscent of sexism, and it’s pretty weird that you went there, because it makes any disagreement not just disagreement but morally problematic.

      My wife is one of the smartest people I know. And I do occasionally run stuff by her, in the context of talking about work over drinks, and sometimes she gives really good advice and input. But I would NEVER DARE insist that her specific input on a project be implemented, nor delay a project for her to get back to me. That is not sexist, it’s basic professional norms and a desire not to undermine my own expertise, competence, and basic judgement.

      1. Specialk9*

        Yeah, I’m with Snark. The behavior is utterly bonkers. Asserting that we’re sexist for recognizing that it’s bonkers is really crappy.

        1. Snark*

          And it wouldn’t matter if it was a husband, a wife, a best friend, or Miss Cleo. It would be equally weird and inappropriate. So yeah, no, hard pushback on the sexism accusation.

        2. Birch*

          I agree, I’m stuck on the idea of taking advice from any partner who has no experience in the field. I adore my partner who is intelligent and intuitive, but I would not take his advice about work stuff because he’s in a different field! Not to mention the lack of professional integrity… yikes.

      2. Lance*

        Exactly; it’s not a measure of their competency, nor their intelligence. It’s the pure and simple fact that they don’t work there, therefore there’s no reason they should apparently be having anywhere near this much input on what happens in their spouse’s workplace, or with their spouse’s projects, that said spouse should be handling themselves.

        1. Mandy*

          Yes! Also to protect the intellectual property/project ideas/marketing direction etc. I would certainly want anyone contributing ideas on the payroll and under contract!

        2. Iris Eyes*

          That is impacted by what field you are in of course.

          Certainly for some relationships, individual areas of expertise are the most efficient and best way though that does come with downsides. Whereas in some fields and relationships it is clearly for the best that the spouse being involved in the work benefits society as a whole. One thinks of historic examples when men dominated board rooms even more than now who on the good advice of their wives steered their companies in better directions. The Wheel of Time series would likely not have been finished as well or quickly if Robert Jordan’s wife wouldn’t have been so knowledgeable of his work.

          I’m not arguing that it is always appropriate, and certainly there should be some divide between home and office but your spouse is your partner, the ox in the yoke next to you. I’m not advocating the behavior of Fergus here, or of Jane job searching for her husband, or even spouses calling in.

          1. Observer*

            Oh, please. This is NOTHING like the legendary “titan of industry who got his best ideas from his wife”.

            With some fairly narrow exceptions, people -of EITHER gender – have no business regularly inserting their spouses – again, or EITHER (or any) gender- into internal work processes.

            1. Iris Eyes*

              Where did I suggest that spouses should be inserted into internal work processes? Because I most certainly didn’t. Perhaps you inferred that, but my further comments should be enough to show that that assumption is mistaken.

          2. Becky*

            Also in the case of Robert Jordan–she wasn’t outside the “company” so to speak. She was his editor.

            1. Becky*

              To add further clarification. Robert Jordan’s wife works for Tor (his publisher) as an editor, and specifically worked in a professional capacity with her husband’s books. She wasn’t asked who should finish the books because she was his wife, and oh, wasn’t it lucky she was so familiar with his work! She was asked because it was part of her job.

      3. Blue Anne*

        Yeah. Snark explains this well.

        My fiance has sometimes told me that he thinks I’m smarter than him. (I think we’re about equal, for what it’s worth.) I’m definitely the one who does most of the strategy and decision-making for the family. But it would be nuts for him to run any of his work stuff by me, because I know nothing about molecular biology, and also because it’s his work. I’m also a beer snob, but I don’t expect him to consult me about what beer to have when he’s out with his buddies.

        That’s not sexism, it’s practicality and professional norms.

      4. stuff*

        I agree with Snark that this isn’t applicable to the situation. And this is coming from someone who used her SO as a sounding board for a product design because they matched the initial user base demographics. But the SO’s opinion was not and will not be the deciding factor because said person doesn’t work there. And it’s weird to suggest otherwise regardless of gender.

        1. Observer*

          Also, in your case you had a good reason to get his feedback – he matched the demographic you were targeting, so it’s a bit of informal and honest market research.

          1. stuff*

            That’s the only reason I mentioned it at work. Otherwise, I wouldn’t. We learned some good stuff that matched up with our other research, but are ultimately unable to use it. The later revealed business goal means we will need to target a brand fan base instead of the whole market…because full disclosure isn’t interesting to the people setting the goals, despite lots of different research to the contrary.

      5. OP*

        I think you said it perfectly. Asking for advice or running something by your spouse isn’t necessarily weird, but the fact that he’s making it a part of our process every time when it doesn’t need to be and there’s no reason for it to be is what’s weird about this situation.

        As someone who is new-ish to the professional world, I have definitely asked my parents and friends for advice or just asked them for a read on a situation, but this is not really what’s happening here.

      6. Iris Eyes*

        I didn’t say it was sexist, I said that it was reminiscent of the same line of thinking. I also asserted that he was clearly going beyond what is reasonable and beneficial. It is one thing to ask for input, another to ask for approval. I was simply wanting to caution people from objecting (as some of the earlier commentors) that spouses should stay out of one another’s business because it isn’t their business.

          1. Iris Eyes*

            It was not my intent to insult, but rather to caution people against potentially harmful patterns of thinking. Patterns that have certainly been justified by sexism, but are just as likely to be caused by elitism of any kind. Many of the comments have suggested an avoidance of talking about work with your spouse as a rule, that may certainly be best for some but shouldn’t be treated as a rule for all.

            I utilized an example of the type of thinking (assumption of ignorance and incompetence based on being an “outsider”) that was sexist because it is obviously wrong, we can all easily agree on that. So then too, we should be able to agree that blanket rules based on the same type of thinking should be viewed with at least skepticism and closely inspected. You don’t need to feel insulted by the comparison, just challenged to think critically on the matter.

            1. Emac*

              “Many of the comments have suggested an avoidance of talking about work with your spouse as a rule,”

              I’m not sure where you’re getting that, I don’t see anyone saying anything close to this. I see people saying it’s normal to discuss work with spouses, friends, family, etc, but that everyone needs to have the professional judgment to know when those outsider opinions could be helpful or not. And that there’s a line between asking for an outsider opinion and actually asking an outsider to directly *contribute* to a project, which it sounds like the OP’s coworker is doing with his wife.

              Suggesting that people don’t understand how to use their own professional judgement to assess any opinions from spouses/family/friends *is* insulting.

            2. Snark*

              “I utilized an example of the type of thinking (assumption of ignorance and incompetence based on being an “outsider”) that was sexist because it is obviously wrong, we can all easily agree on that. So then too, we should be able to agree that blanket rules based on the same type of thinking should be viewed with at least skepticism and closely inspected.”

              You have completely and totally misconstrued or misrepresented the reasoning you’re arguing against, and then you’re drawing a really tenuous connection based on assumptions I don’t think are even logically defensible. Sorry. There’s no connection between sexism and “she is not directly involved in the project, is not employed by the employer, and has no relevant background, so she should not be CC’d on emails nor projects delayed to incorporate her input.” There just isn’t. So your entire chain of argument falls apart after that.

        1. Observer*

          No, it is not at all reminiscent or in any way similar to that line of thinking. Nor have you made any sort of argument for including ones spouse in their work on any sort of regular basis. Nothing you have said comes close to explaining you “caution”.

      7. Iris Eyes*

        Did you read the rest? Or are you choosing willfully to misinterpret what I said?

        I’m calling out the “how dare you speak of what happens at work with your spouse, they are irrelevant” mentality that some comments are advocating.

        1. Not a Morning Person*

          I’m not seeing that interpretation in the comments. I see that people think it’s weird to TELL THEIR COWORKERS that they won’t make a decision until they have gotten input from their spouse. I don’t see anyone saying that they believe it is weird or inappropriate to get that input. Lots of people discuss work with partners, friends, spouses, but don’t tell their coworkers that they are going to hold up the work until they’ve done so.

    3. PB*

      I’m going to agree with the others. I take issue with accusations of sexism in this case. I run work problems by my husband all the time, as well. I would never say to a coworker, “We need to wait on this until I can get my husband’s feedback,” or copy him on emails, or really let anyone I work with know that this is going on. Talking to your SO about your work day is normal. This isn’t normal. No one here is alleging that his wife “just can’t understand,” and it has nothing to do with her gender. She doesn’t work there, and doesn’t have training in the field.

      1. Sports Day (with apologies to Aaron Sorkin)*

        If you are in a field such as law, finance, medicine, psychology, clergy, etc., where confidentiality is important, then talking to your SO about work is not normal. Remember that scene in THE SOPRANOS where Dr. Melfi tells her husband that she’s counseling Tony? That was a big ethical lapse.

    4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      The issue isn’t the spouse’s gender, and I don’t think it’s helpful to OP to raise the spectre of sexism when that’s not really in play or to assume that an “outsider” opinion is going to be better than an “insider” opinion when OP’s experience has demonstrated otherwise. The issue is the spouse’s complete lack of applicable experience or expertise. I don’t think this is an issue of OP’s coworker needing an outside opinion because there’s an echo chamber at work. But even if it were, you don’t get to hold up projects and forward business emails to your spouse to get that feedback.

    5. Jessie the First (or second)*

      No one is calling this problematic because she is a woman. They are calling it problematic because she does not work at the company and is not an expert in the field.

      How do you get from there to sexism? Seriously, what is the thought train that led you to conflate “someone is holding up work projects because they insist on getting spouse’s input, and spouse is not an employee and not involved in our field” all the way over to “we think she is a silly delicate woman who cannot understand”? The gulf between these two things is so wide that it is honestly insulting that you would declare us sexist for thinking that holding up a work project for input from a non-employee spouse is inappropriate.

      And how on earth is getting a non-employee *more* involved “golden” for the company? How is it “good news” that he can’t think for himself?

      1. Snark*

        Yeah, it is pretty insulting.

        And yes, it’s not good news that an employee is getting input from outside the company. It implies that he’s an unqualified, un-confident nepotism hire. If there’s concerns about a lack of diversity in thought in the team, that’s a matter to deal with internally, not by roping in randos.

      2. Iris Eyes*

        It is good news that he is so tractable because as such a blatant nepotism hire you know you probably can’t just hope that his own incompetence gets him fired. His father has given him nice juicy accounts that he is botching which will likely lead to them leaving. But will that get him demoted or fired? No. So he will just keep getting assigned the best clients, who he will screw up with if the current trajectory continues. You will lose good team mates because anyone who can see what’s going on will want to jump ship. Eventually maybe someone above his father will put a stop to things but not before the reputation in the industry takes a hit from it.

        With that staring you in the face, if you can get him to imprint on someone who will lead him productively then you have a chance of salvaging the situation. Think of it like a grand duke puppetting and incompetent ruler. Sometimes that’s the best you can do in the situation.

    6. Amber Rose*

      Nobody said anything about not understanding? I thought wife’s input was being dismissed for being straight up terrible as she’s not involved in the business at all.

      Usually if you get another set of eyes on something, you want those eyes to belong to someone who can apply previous experience to what they’re seeing. The wife may understand more or less what she’s seeing, but without experience in the industry or with the company, she’s not going to have useful ideas.

    7. Grits McGee*

      I would also like to push back against the idea of “Get the whole family ’round to manage this one employee.” The answer to “inappropriate encroachment of family into the workplace” isn’t doubling down on the issue. Especially since it implies that OP is going to be responsible for telling a senior VP how to manage his son and his daughter-in-law.

      1. Iris Eyes*

        I don’t suggest the OP do so, I suggested that someone suggest mentoring this young man out of his bad habits. If you try to come up in direct opposition to the dad that’s not likely to go well, he is certainly the biggest factor in this whole situation. If the situation can be escalated to someone above the father, then by all means.

        Since the wife’s opinion is clearly so valuable, if she can be enlisted to think that her husband is being honored by the mentor-ship and can encourage him to comply then all the better.

        After all the OP conceivably came here for practical suggestions on how to manage the situation. Sure reaffirming that this level of nepotism and spousal involvement is ridiculous can be encouraging but all that doesn’t help solve the problem.

        1. Observer*

          You REALLY think that a practical solution to a spouse’s over-involvement is to involve the spouse even more?!

          The notion that someone who thinks overstepping like this is going to encourage their spouse to comply with advice to cut it out is so absurd that it’s not even something I can take seriously.

          1. Iris Eyes*

            Clearly I was saying that the intent was for the mentor to replace both spouse and father in the work place, but most especially the spouse. So yes for one instance, enlist the spouse’s cooperation (probably not explicitly) so that going forward she isn’t as involved. She can in the future say, “I think this but why don’t you talk to Bob about this?” or “I wonder what Jane would say about that.”

            I would assume that this level of involvement is going to burn the wife out eventually especially if she has her own job. Who knows maybe she is giving intentionally bad suggestions so that someone will save her from her husband’s insistence that she do his work. Maybe she is just as baffled by this as everyone else and is hoping for a way out.

            So yes, I’m suggesting it as a solution because whenever nepotism is involved sometimes you have to come up with work arounds to keep things flowing with minimal negative effects, as a stream diverts around a rock.

    8. Tuxedo Cat*

      Depending on the field, I disagree with this. I have a colleague who switched into field B where I work and frequently gets advice from his mentor in field A as though the mentor says the gospel truth. The mentor in field A might be absolutely give good advice in field A, but for field B, he couldn’t be more off if he tried. It has nothing to do with gender or anything like that, it’s that the mentor lacks the knowledge.

    9. LS*

      Waaaaht? Seriously, that’s nonsense. I don’t ask my *male* spouse for advice on work projects because it’s *my* work and he has no experience or expertise in my field. And because he doesn’t work there, and there are potential confidentiality issues.

      1. Iris Eyes*

        See that is the attitude I’m pushing back on. Not the specifics of the letter writer’s case.
        Just because someone doesn’t have expertise or experience in your field doesn’t mean that they can’t have any valuable input. Sure they may not be able to help you with technical problems but even just trying to explain it could be what helps you figure out the problem. After a decade or so of being married to someone you do tend to know more about their area of expertise than the average person if you try at all. As a married couple your interests are aligned, it is in everyone’s best interest if everyone is successful in their jobs.

        I’m not of course saying that you MUST ask your spouse for advice, or that you should change things up if they work for you that way but you should examine your belief that outsider opinions or suggestions can’t be beneficial. Unlike the letter writer though, you as the expert need to know what seeds of ideas are good and what should be discarded, and at what points to seek opinions in the first place.

    10. Observer*

      This has nothing to do with sexism, and it’s odd that you would claim that. The OP is very clear as to why they have a problem – the spouse has neither company nor industry knowledge. And, the advice she gives is often bad enough that it’s clear that she hasn’t picked up enough from being around spouse and FIL to be useful.

    11. Lora*

      Naaahh, it’s one thing to ask about something generic that is common to all businesses everywhere: “Honey, I’m not sure how to address the open office telephone use” or “Can you tell me what I’m doing wrong with PowerPoint? I want it to make an annoying noise” or “Babe, you’ve used Concur before, how do I upload a receipt?” are categorically different from “when selecting a control scheme do I use a regular PID control with limits set or do I use cascade control” or “which species would be better as a model for Parkinson’s, rotenone in mice or 6-OHDA in rats?” you know?

      I’ve phoned a friend a few times, but it was always someone who was a known expert in the field and someone who wouldn’t need all the confidential details in order to give me an answer – they could figure it out from scrubbed data. And I didn’t hold anyone up for “hey you gotta wait for my buddy’s advice,” either.

    12. Elizabeth West*

      Nope. This would be the same issue even if the spouse were a man.

      The biggest problem I see here is that Fergus is HOLDING UP THE PROJECTS when he solicits his wife’s feedback. The entire team has to wait until she answers. This crap needs to be shut down now. His behavior is directly impacting and undermining their work. I’m side-eyeing the manager who allows it–in fact, if the manager and Fergus’s dad won’t do anything about this, I would side-eye the entire company and start looking for a new damn job.

      And I’m sorry, but even if the material isn’t confidential, the wife does not work there and has no expertise. The only instance where it would be appropriate is if the team as a whole decided to use her as market or end-user testing because she fits the targeted demographic of the product or campaign. But OP said her suggestions were actually detrimental to the projects. The team is not obligated to give her comments any weight whatsoever.

  13. Amber Rose*

    Is it possible he’s hoping to get his wife a job with your company?

    Even if so, definitely push back against this. Ignoring it isn’t working, so it’s time to up front say, “Your wife is not involved in this project. Turn in your part and let’s move on.”

    1. Snark*

      I think OP is 100% in the clear to be like, “No, I’m not going to incorporate that, she’s not on this team and doesn’t work here, so she doesn’t get a say,” or “Sorry, Fergus, your wife isn’t on this team and we’re not going to wait for her input. If you don’t have anything yourself, I think it’s time to move forward.”

    2. OP*

      I don’t think he’s trying to get her a job and he hasn’t mentioned anything that would make me think he is. If he was this would be a weird way of doing it! Haha

  14. PaperbackFighter*

    I work at a company that employs several sets of parents and children. If they have to work directly together, children always call their parent by their first name in that situation. At first I thought it was weird to hear Jane call her dad Elias, but then I realized how much more awkward it would be for her to have to call him Dad in front of coworkers, or clients. Using “Dad” rather than “Elias” in a sentence has a totally different impact (like your example above, OP).

  15. Janice*

    ” e.g. he will CC her on something and say he wants her to look at it”. He is CC-ing his wife on business emails regarding projects!!!!??? And no one has called him out on that? That is really beyond ridiculous. Are people above your level receiving/aware of these emails?

    1. OP*

      My manager knows he did that, but I’m sure his manager (who is his dad) doesn’t know. Since there aren’t any worries with confidentiality here, I am leaning towards doing what Alison suggested and simply just calling out how weird it is, instead of taking it up the ladder.

      But yeah, I was pretty baffled by that when it happened!

      1. serenity*

        He reports to his dad? Oh my, I know this element isn’t in your question to AAM, but that just sounds like a problem waiting to happen.

        1. OP*

          I thought I mentioned this in my letter, but yes, he works in a niche group in our company and reports directly to his dad. That’s one of the things that makes his situation weird; all of the other relative pairs work in different departments or on different teams. So it’s weird for a few reasons.

  16. Sara*

    My mother is HR at my office, and I do sometimes still refer to her as ‘my mother’ but usually when I’m trying to get people to back off (because they want me to ask her for a favor or something) or if I know them really well. I’m sure it slips out occasionally but I try very hard to use her first name with people I don’t know very well mostly because I don’t want them to associate me with her (we also have the same initials, same last name and similar first names so our stuff gets confused very easily anyway).
    I would think he’s doing this to inflate his position and make himself seem self important.

    1. OP*

      That’s what I thought too, because his dad is definitely a Big Wig in our company. But really it just makes us all think of him as like, Draco Malfoy.

  17. Gavin*

    Regarding the father: I’ve been in a situation where calling a colleague/family member by her name would look stilted, but calling her by the family endearment would seem affected and undermining. It can be hard. There are ways to work around it, though, much like people work around referring to someone whose name they have forgotten. So, if he’s dropping “my dad” all over like confetti at a parade, it seems intentional, and thus eye-roll-y.

    Regarding the wife: Yeah, that’s just a big bucket of WTF.

    1. Sled dog mama*

      Similar but not exactly the same thing happened to me. I was hired to fill in for the CEO’s assistant while she was on maternity leave at the organization where my dad was a VP. All the other VP’s told me to call them by their first names, my dad didn’t give me a clue what to call him. Mr. Smith felt way too formal and obviously Daddy wasn’t an option, I finally settled on what most of his staff called him “Mr. Hugh”. Yes I’m from the southern US where addressing someone as Mr. FirstName is considered very respectful, at the time we had the same unusual last name and I am, unfortunately for me, clearly his daughter so I could not have passed it off as a coincidence.

    2. OP*

      There’s one conversation I can think of specifically where he mentioned “my dad” at least three times. I was just like, okay, I get it, please stop!

  18. Government Worker*

    This is just weird. My wife calls me to consult about Excel occasionally, but it’s always a technical question that I’m qualified to answer. She’s not in a data-focused role and I spend all day playing with spreadsheets and databases. When she has a spreadsheet-based task that she’s not sure how to do efficiently it can be faster for her to call me than to Google and try to learn pivot tables or whatever on her own.

    But to hold up a project for input and suggestions from a spouse, and then present them to a team as the spouse’s suggestions that should be adopted? Super strange.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I’ve crowdsourced Excel help from friends & family on FB a few times.

      And I could even see saying “we need a fresh set of eyes to look over this flyer before we send it to print” and sending something to a spouse. But actually soliciting their input on a project that is in progress is just bizarre.

    2. Amber Rose*

      Yeah. I had a coworker who occasionally spent hours consulting her husband, but he used to work at our company doing her job, so we all appreciated the time he spent helping us out. My husband used to occasionally call me for help with government documents, but I spent years working with/registering them and am sort of an expert, and his boss was OK with me offering advice.

      I don’t know, if husband called me about his current job, or CC’d me on emails (which would get him fired immediately due to confidentiality) I’d be confused as hell about why he was asking me and ask him to stop.

    3. Nervous Accountant*

      This is like if I call my husband to ask him his opinion on a tax law or how to do a particular tax return for someone.

      He’s an IT guy, has no training or experience in taxes/accounting.

      My husband has asked me for help but mostly like.. “can you access this website on your browser,a ndt ell me how it works”..this was before he got an iphone & laptop & tablet to test all of his websites.

      It is so extremely weird.

    4. Ros*

      This. I’ve asked my husband (who works in IT) for feedback on IT-specific terminology from a supplier that no one I worked with understood. But also… I have asked an economist friend to hunt up data for a presentation I was building (access to databases is a wonderful thing). I’ve been the spreadsheet resource for my spouse.

      If it takes more than 10 minutes of someone else’s time, though? Eesh. There’s a difference between using the best available information to do your job and outsourcing your job altogether.

    5. OP*

      My parents do kind of the same thing; my dad is an Excel genius, and my mom will ask him for help with it but that’s it. Definitely not what’s happening here. Definitely strange!

    6. Elizabeth West*

      My sister is in marketing and she does this to me all the time—“Does this sentence sound correct/effective?” But no, I don’t get to look at whatever she’s working on and delay her entire project.

  19. TotesMaGoats*

    So, I have worked at the same place as my mom but not in the same chain. We did have meetings together from time to time and in regards to students or faculty, I would call my mom by her first name. Walking in to her office to get lunch, as long as no one else was there, it was “mom”. I tried to be as professional as possible because I didn’t want anyone to think I’d gotten the job because of her.

    Now, I’ll talk to my mom to get her opinion on things because she is an expert in my field. And the person doing her job at my current job kinda of sucks at it. To the point that people who know me and know my mom, ask me to ask her what she thinks of certain policies and procedures. So, I’ll say “I talked with my mom” but only with certain people.

    Bottom line though, this is weird. Especially the spouse thing.

  20. AdAgencyChick*

    Honestly…I’d talk to my boss about it before I brought it up with him, or with anyone else. I’ve seen too many times where a VIP’s kid or a client’s kid gets treated with kid gloves because of who they’re related to.

    Your boss hopefully has an idea of the political lay of the land, or can find out — and can help you navigate whether it’s safe to push back (and if it’s not, how best to work around him).

    I hate pandering to brats but it’s worse to have management come down on YOU like a ton of bricks if it turns out this person is truly untouchable.

    1. Trout 'Waver*

      That was my thought too. I wouldn’t pick this battle to fight. What’s the upside? Because the downside could be really bad.

    2. Helpful*

      That’s a really good point. We don’t have a great sense of the risk/politics at play. Might be better for OP not to stick her neck out.

    3. Kyrielle*

      I would talk to the kid before I brought it up higher, but only because I think I could phrase it in a way that made it ‘helping’ rather than pushing back. I’d approach him as an aside, and try to frame it as “You can do what you want, but I thought you might want to be aware that calling your father ‘Dad’ in the office, and saying you are going to consult your wife when she doesn’t work here, isn’t going to get you as good of a reputation as looking like you are standing on your own. Referring to your father by name, and saying you need time to think instead of making it obvious that you’re consulting your wife, is likely to make you look like a stronger employee to your coworkers, and help your career.”

      …yeah, society may have trained me to minimize stuff. The problem with this approach is that, unlike Alison’s, it takes no stand on the “delays to consult your wife are a problem for the rest of the project team, and her ideas aren’t generally suitable”. I think it’s fairly unlikely to cause friction, though.

      Maybe check with your boss and see if s/he knows anything, and if it is a situation like AdAgencyChick surmises, go with the softened version. (If you care to! You can also totally shrug and decide that if trying to change it is likely to cause political issues, you’re better off staying silent and letting him continue as he is. You don’t owe him any of this.)

      1. OP*

        This is exactly where I’m at. It’s not a confidentiality issue, like a lot of folks are wondering, and because we ignore her feedback and move things ahead it hasn’t caused problems, and I don’t worry about any political ramifications, so if I ever did say anything it would 100% be a professional kindness from one person to another.

    4. OP*

      I have a pretty good read of the situation, and I really would not be worried about kindly and professionally calling this guy out. We definitely aren’t an organization where families get special treatment and his dad isn’t someone who I think would get mad at me or anything like that.

  21. boop the first*

    So if this person’s wife is regularly acting as a consultant for the company, she should probably be paid for her work. If only someone could convince her to begin sending invoices… it would certainly get someone’s attention. Hope you’re keeping the cc’d emails! Surely you must have mentioned this to your non-relative employers?

  22. bikes*

    OP, what is your gut instinct? How would the senior VP feel about the wife of his son being consulted? If it’s an eccentric family and he is fine with all this nonsense, you may just have to grit your teeth until you move on. If you don’t think that you will be with the company long-term, perhaps it’s just better to not say anything. I’m worried that your unsolicited input might have negative consequences for you.

    Can you live with being secretly right and not speaking up? One skill I’ve developed over time is not letting everything drive me batty at work. Internally, I’m rolling my eyes, but there’s also a detachment that comes with age and experience.

    1. OP*

      My gut instinct is 1) that this salesperson wouldn’t tattle on me if I was kind and professional and 2) that his dad would probably not care about it even if he did. His dad is a very straight forward and brusque person who has a lot on his plate, and our organization isn’t one where people get special treatment just because their dad has worked there for a long time.

      And honestly, this isn’t something that like, keeps me awake at night, and if I did say anything it would truly be because I want to help another young professional. To be perfectly honest, I don’t really like this guy a lot and I don’t have to work with him very often, so it’s not going to irritate me if I never say anything and he keeps doing it.

  23. bookartist*

    OP, if there is a project manager on the team, they could make a process issue. “Your wife isn’t on the stakeholder register, so we have no allocation made to implement her feedback.” But it sounds like there isn’t a PM around.

    1. OP*

      There isn’t a PM, and these projects are usually pretty small with a short turnaround. I think I may have unintentionally made it sound like a bigger issue than it is, but it’s definitely not something I would want to call a manager’s attention to. Anything I did say to him would be purely as a heads up from one young professional to another letting them know that something they’re doing is a little weird.

  24. sfigato.taylor*

    So here’s my question: would it make a difference if the wife had deep knowledge about the subject area? My wife is in design and marketing, and I will sometimes ask for her advice on design-related projects. she is literally an expert in the area, and knows way more than I or my colleagues do. Granted, I generally do this in private, over dinner, but we had a recent project and I asked for her advice and then referenced her suggestion when we were discussing options (as in “My wife, who did this for a Very Large Company, said that best practice at Very Large Company was to do it this way, so maybe we should do that.”) The context was that we have zero experience in this area, and this person is an expert in the area, so her advice is useful. I never thought about it being unprofessional, though.

    1. Birch*

      I think we’re all assuming that the wife has no training or expertise in OP’s field, which is why it’s so bizarre. Now, if she did…..there’s some fine line between chatting over dinner and getting an expert consultation. I think if you implement something concrete based on an outside non-employee’s advice, to be ethical you should hire that person officially as a consultant. In your example it just sounds like chatting over dinner, but in OP’s case the wife should be officially hired or not allowed so much input!

    2. Amber Rose*

      That’s different. One, because she has relevant knowledge. And two, I assume nothing would be held up if she wasn’t able to give you an answer right away.

      For a minute, pretend the coworker isn’t married, and is instead consulting a friend, or a friend of a friend, or a person he used to work with. If that person doesn’t have relevant knowledge, it’s still incredibly unprofessional. The issue here isn’t that she’s his wife, it’s that she has nothing useful to contribute. And also that he doesn’t seem to be contributing anything himself but is fine holding stuff up for useless input.

    3. Murphy*

      I think the main issue here is that he’s holding up projects for her feedback, since she doesn’t work there.

      My husband works in the same industry as his parents and he’ll occasionally talk shop with them and get some advice, but he’s not CCing them on emails or asking for their feedback in real time. I don’t think it’s necessarily bad at an internal meeting to reference a family member as you said (as long as the information isn’t confidential), but the guy in this letter is definitely crossing some boundaries.

    4. bookartist*

      In my role as project manager, I still wouldn’t care what the spousal opinion is – she is not on the team and has no context other than what her spouse tells her. Her opinion is based on incomplete information.

      1. Amber Rose*

        I think it’s less about her opinion, and more just about information she has. It’s one thing to say, “My wife says we should do it this way.” And another to say, “Hey, wife said Big Company X does it this way, and I was thinking we could incorporate these elements into this part of the project.”

        1. Snark*

          I think that second way is probably more excusable, on a very, very occasional basis and if Wife’s judgment on BCX’s practices is solid. Even so, I’d still just bring it up as “So, I’ve heard that BCX does it this way, and I wonder if we might want to consider that.”

          Even so, though, there’s still the problem that the wife isn’t directly involved with the project and is necessarily working with an incomplete understanding.

          1. Amber Rose*

            It doesn’t really matter if wife doesn’t have understanding though? Because the person who does can apply the information she has appropriately. Even if it ends up being not helpful, that’s not that strange. Brainstorming meetings often result in unhelpful ideas on the way to useful ones.

            1. Snark*

              Yeah, but if you’re positioning yourself as a mere conduit for your wife’s input, that’s not helpful, in addition to not being a good look. Like, if your spouse gives you input and in your judgement it’s valuable and actionable, or at least worth discussing, bring it up. But if Fergus is just passing on suggestions without screening them yourself, maybe stop.

              1. sfigato.taylor*

                No, it’s more that she knows a lot about areas that nobody in our office knows anything about (like social media campaigns and best practices in design), so her advice is useful in those very limited areas, filtered through my understanding of our particular context and the understanding that this is based on a 20 minute conversation, so it isn’t like she’s consulting for us.

                I would never, ever, ever hold up a project to get her advice on an area she knows about much less an area she knows nothing about though.

        2. CM*

          I agree — in this case, it’s like any other outside information. I think you could say, “My friend, who’s a consultant, told me that at Company Y they do it this way,” and it would be the same. In both cases, you’d think about whether it made sense, but you wouldn’t assume it was great advice or feel any obligation to take the advice.

          It becomes unprofessional when your boss doesn’t welcome outside input, your wife/friend doesn’t actually know what they’re talking about, you don’t bother to explain the wife/friend’s qualifications, or you assume their advice is great and your workplace should take it seriously.

      2. Kyrielle*

        I think bringing in her information is reasonable, because then the project team can look at it and decide “this does apply, let’s use it” or “nope, because X” (takes too much time, too much process, not the right context, what we are doing is good enough and faster, etc.).

        But *delaying* things to get her opinion, or bringing in ideas that should be clearly non-starters based on the *employee’s* knowledge, that’s not okay.

    5. SarahTheEntwife*

      I think so long as there aren’t any confidentiality issues in play it’s fine. (And of course there’s a line beyond which someone should really be paying your spouse as a consultant rather than having them on string as an unpaid designer or whatever.)

    6. Tuxedo Cat*

      For me, that wouldn’t be unprofessional. With the OP’s situation, what strikes me as really odd is that it’s not apparent the wife is an expert in their area, it seems frequent, the wife’s contributions seem to be on big things, and the wife’s contributions seem to be on items that the coworker was hired for.

      I’ll occasionally help my partner with stats things or Excel. However, this is maybe a handful of times during the year and not the core part of his job. If I were constantly providing feedback on major aspects of his job, I think that would be a problem.

    7. fposte*

      I think it’s okay to ask a related SME who doesn’t work for the company; you don’t want to do it on the regular, though, and you definitely don’t want to make that an official step for the project that keeps other people waiting.

    8. MashaKasha*

      I can relate to this too. My older son and I work in the same field, and he’s already far better at it than I am in a lot of ways. He also has experience working at a Silicon Valley company, so of course I’m sometimes curious about how they do things and whether they are doing anything we could adopt at my workplace. Not gonna lie, I sometimes run workplace-related questions by him to see what he says. But I don’t bring that up in work meetings, don’t copy him on work emails, don’t make my colleagues put projects on hold till he’s had his say in them… I do not share confidential information with him. I just ask his opinion, agree or disagree with it, decide to take or not take a certain course of action based on what he says, and that is where it ends. If I ever do end up mentioning his suggestions with my teammates, I leave his name off them. At least, that’s what my approach to this has been. I haven’t ever seen any instructions on how to do this, so I admit I’ve been flying blind here.

    9. Observer*

      That’s a totally different scenario to what the OP is describing. I think that what you did makes a lot of sense. Now, if you were targeting a demographic that you had lots of experience with, and your wife and her company had never targeted, I’d look at it differently. But, it sounds like in your case you basically got some free consulting from someone with relevant experience, when your company didn’t have it.

      Also, it was a one off, and you didn’t expect everyone to wait on your consultation with your wife.

    10. OP*

      His wife is apparently a graphic designer, and he has asked her for input on projects he’s done with our graphic designer, but that’s where the “her suggestions are often flat-out bad” in my question came from. Because we work in the industry we do, there are certain things that do and do not work, and most of her suggestions are things that would not work at all for what we’re doing.

      When this has happened to me, it was on a project that she, as far as I know, has no experience with and her input would have had no bearing on what I put in the final product.

      I think if she had experience in our industry it might make a difference, but honestly I think what makes it so weird is that he’s 1) constantly doing it and 2) telling us that he’s doing it or going to do it. Those things make it feel pretty insulting and a little patronizing.

      1. Observer*

        That sounds like he doesn’t understand your industry and its differentiators.

        My father was a graphic designer and artist, and I did ask his opinion on some projects. But these were real limits to where I could get useful feedback, because while some things were not industry specific, others were. In fact, one of the first things my father taught me about graphic design – long before I got to work is that your imagery needs to match your target.

    11. Relly*

      I’ve done something similar. At LongAgoJob, we were all expected to wear multiple hats, so several of us ended up doing some basic web coding, despite none of us having experience or background in it. We would generally make things up and see what worked.

      Spouse has a master’s in computer engineering, so once or twice I consulted him, informally, along the lines of “We’re trying to get from Point A to Point B. Right now we’re doing x, y, then z. Is there a faster or better way?”

      I’d pass along any info to my overworked colleagues, and it would usually save us some time.

      1. OP*

        That doesn’t seem weird to me at all! So I know it’s definitely not a case of, “No spouse should ever see their spouse’s work,” but the way he’s going about it is so weird.

  25. Courtney*

    Opposite problem here. I work very closely with my mother and always use her first name, but my board, clients, etc. always say, “your mom mentioned….” or “please tell your mom….” Even in email. Drives me crazy.

  26. Nervous Accountant*

    Not touching on the “dad” thing but I am so icked out by him involving the wife on every thing work related when she has no involvement at the company to begin with. I know if it were the other way around, a female employee kept referring to her husband on everything there’d be lots of discussion and allegation of abuse; I’m not going that far but I still think it’s super weird and super icky.

    1. Observer*

      I was thinking about that, too. Maybe not abuse, but just very, very strange in a relationship kind of way.

    1. CM*

      I remember a comment from back in the pre-Fergus “Bob” days, when someone noted, “Bob has had quite a year” and listed all the trials and travails that Bob had gone through (or perpetrated). Bob had an appendectomy, Bob accidentally punched a coworker, Bob was gossiping too much in the breakroom, Bob stole all the staples…

  27. strawberries and raspberries*

    Maybe I’m projecting, as clearly the wife is interested in her husband’s work projects since she’s offering (badly thought-out, late) suggestions. But man, if I would not blow a gasket at a husband who was constantly asking me to help him with his work as if I didn’t have anything else to do. Like if it was a HUGE PROJECT that I had special expertise in? Or if it was something that was like an all-hands kind of a thing and my helping would expedite things for him? Maybe. But frankly I would find it kind of a) annoying and insulting that my husband was looping me into the minutiae of his work projects (and costing me extra emotional labor too) and b) weird that he was staking his professional reputation on me caring and being involved. Like, way to deflect responsibility!

    1. OP*

      That is a really good point! I don’t know if she works or what she does, but I’d definitely be irritated if my husband thought I had nothing better to do.

  28. Just another voice in the echo chamber*

    Regarding the “my dad” thing – any chance he’s trying to be transparent about the relationship, so people are aware/not caught off guard? I had the opposite situation years ago at a business I worked for, the owner hired her cousin to manage the place. They had different last names and no one said anything. When we all finally found out everyone was freaking out about what they may have said in front of the cousin, complaining about the owner, etc. It felt almost like they intended her to be a spy!

    1. OP*

      I don’t think that’s the case. They have the same (pretty unique) last name, and our company is small enough that when someone’s family member starts most people know about it. It’s definitely not what happened in your case, which sounds very weird!

  29. gwal*

    Is the wife a member of the organization’s target demographic? Maybe this is a poor attempt at market research and you could clue the coworker in on your other efforts to reach that target demo.

  30. Zara*

    When he first brought up that he’d need to run something by his spouse, why wasn’t the first response, “Why?” I can’t imagine hearing that from a coworker and not questioning it at all.

    1. OP*

      I think the first time it happened was him telling my coworker, a graphic designer who was working on a sales slick with him, that he wanted his wife to look it over (his wife is apparently also a graphic designer). I think she was just kind of shocked and put off and didn’t really care until he came back with her very bad suggestions.

      I wish I had said something in the moment the first time he did it! But I’m glad I’m armed with something to say now, because it’s definitely weird.

  31. a Gen X manager*

    Does OP know for certain that the wife doesn’t have expertise? I agree with Alison’s advice, but it is possible that she does have experience or expertise and OP shouldn’t use that language if that isn’t known.

    Totally bizarre and inappropriate though – good luck, OP!

    1. Becky*

      If someone is contributing ideas that don’t work for the market/direction/product it can become pretty obvious that they do not have the expertise to contribute valuable input to the project–you don’t need to understand their background. Maybe they are an expert in floral teapot design but that doesn’t mean their marketing ideas for them are applicable to the company currently, or maybe they know marketing really well but don’t necessarily know anything about floral teapots. It is more than just expertise in a certain area or topic, it is also expertise on the specific project and current business intentions.

    2. OP*

      Yes, I know for sure she doesn’t have expertise. Not only have we seen it because her suggestions are very bad, but she has a pretty strong internet presence and there’s nothing anywhere that makes us think she might have experience in this industry at all.

  32. SometimesALurker*

    I’m seeing a lot of comments along the lines of “I called my parent by their name at work and never needed to be told that that’s the norm” (or “my kid did this without being told”). I feel like this kind of response in threads can be fun and helpful, because it’s sharing our surprise at something that’s outside of norms and it helps us get a sense of just how ingrained/embedded a norm is (or isn’t) in our culture. AND, I’d also like to flag the fact that there are lots of really great workers who DO need to be told about workplace norms. Sometimes they’re from another country, sometimes they are from a socioeconomic background where they weren’t exposed to workplace norms, or had an event in their life that interrupted their learning about that kind of thing, sometimes they have a disability that affects the speed at which they pick up on these things but doesn’t affect their skill at teapot design. I don’t mean to police other commenters, and I don’t think that these comments are inherently a problem! I do think that a long pile of these comments be a problem, unless we also check ourselves and think about what norms really mean. So, this is me offering that check.

    1. gwal*

      Thanks! I had a parent who taught in my high school and always referred to them (never my direct instructor) by the at-home parental nickname. Didn’t ever cross my mind that this wasn’t the done thing, and the comments had me feeling embarrassed.

    2. OP*

      I think you’re right, and that’s why I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt! I know from experience that sometimes something that seems totally fine to me can actually be not great for an office, so I wanted to find a way to say something that takes into account that he might also just be a young professional who doesn’t understand workplace norms.

    3. NacSacJack*

      Thank you, Lurker, for speaking to this. I meant to bring this subject up in last Friday’s free-for-all (and will do so in the near future) but some of us even in America come from totally different backgrounds than our parents or even their parents. How are we taught this? (That is my question) My parents were govt workers. My grandparents were retired 10-20 years before I finished college. When I first started working professionally, someone eventually had to tell me to get dressed up better. I followed the company dress code to the letter, but they felt I shouldn’t be dressing at the bottom of the dress code, but rather as much as I could towards the top. What they didn’t realize was I couldn’t. i wasn’t making enough. I wasn’t getting extra money from Mom & Dad. I wasn’t living at home. I wasn’t event in the same state. My parents didn’t take me clothes shopping when I graduated. And every workplace has a different culture, expectation, to which my parents would have said, dress up! I was also the first male in my generation, both sides, that didn’t work in a blue collar job. And my sisters and girl cousins, all are naturally beautiful, with body types that make it easy for them to dress for success. Think on that. How will your children know how to dress? Who taught you?

      1. MJ (Aotearoa/New Zealand)*

        There was a really fascinating ask the readers about this (where you learn workplace norms from) a couple of years ago. I’m going to see if I can dig out the link.

    4. Hapless Bureaucrat*

      I agree. This wasn’t something I “just knew,” my dad and I explicitly discussed expectations, forms of address, our goals before I started work with him. Moreover, we had practice with what worked and didn’t after years of experience volunteering together.
      My boss and I also had explicit talks where she set expectations. I checked in with my mentors too.
      This is where I’m actually surprised at the dad in this scenario. If he’s being called Dad to his face at work and NOT calling out his son, then as a boss he’s doing his employee (his son) a disservice. And it sounds like there are other families who work at the place, he could have gone to ask one of the other parents about their experiences.

  33. Hmmmmm*

    I think the “my dad” thing is only awkward because of the other unprofessional behavior. If that is the only thing, typically, it is just as weird to hear someone refer to their parent by first name as though everyone doesn’t know who they are to you. The distinction is referring to him only when it would makes sense to reference someone in his position. For example, if he was just someone close to VP in his personal life, it would be weird if he was bringing up what “Greg thinks” when Greg wouldn’t normally be factored in. Calling him Dad isn’t weird, it’s bringing up the personal connection of projects where it doesn’t make sense. The wife thing is just plain weird.

    1. Context is important! I say, every twelve seconds in my working life*

      I agree that the dad thing seems particularly egregious because of the wider pattern it seems to be a part of; context about the structure of the workplace matters a lot too. I definitely referred to my mom as “my mom” around the office (never to the public) when I worked with/for her…in a 6-person office where 3 people had been working with my mom for 25+ years and one of those had, like, been at my christening. But in a larger, more formal workplace structure? Things would be different, probably.

  34. Mackayla*

    But it’s so weird to call your dad by his first name when you’re young, like in your 20s. I’m 22 and my dad is my dad, I don’t even associate his first name with him if that makes sense. And I’m in my second job but my parents handle the money/tax part because I can’t figure out paperwork, so occasionally I will mention my dad in non work related conversations (I am a student teacher). So like in the break room over lunch, people will talk about something personal and I will say “oh yeah my dad did X too” Should I say my father or use my dads first name? It’s so weird I’m only 22 and I would be talking like a full grown up with kids (no offense)!

    1. Observer*

      You ARE a “full grown up”. You should act like one and talk like one while at work.

      And, as an aside, you REALLY should start to handle your own paperwork. You don’t have to jump into everything all at once, but YOU are the one who is responsible for your money and your taxes. Learn how to manage them yourself, even if you need to pay an accountant.

      1. Mackayla*

        Chill I’m only 22. And the paperwork is really confusing and my parents have been handling it because I don’t even know what I’m supposed to sign or any of the deadlines but my parents have way more experience than me. No one at my job bothered to explain anything to me about making sure my salary would get to my bank account and stuff. But when I get a full time job next year I will look into doing it
        To be honest I feel more like a college kid than a full grown up. But I’m trying to get ahead by reading AAM :P

    2. Morning Glory*

      The idea behind not referring to your father as ‘dad’ at work is because, when you are both at work in the same office, your relationship should not be parent/child. It should be colleague or superior/employee, so you should refer to him the way you would any other person in that relationship.

      Talking about your father doing X is referring to him in the context of your personal (not professional) relationship with him, so it would be fine to say ‘father’ (or, I suppose, dad) in that context. But don’t advertise the fact that your father does paperwork etc. for you – it’s just going to make your coworkers see you as not a real adult.

    3. Agnodike*

      It’s not weird to call your dad your dad if you’re talking about him in a non-work context; I might say “My dad is coming to visit me” at work, which would be normal and fine. But when my dad and I worked at the same place, I called him by his first name, same as I called everyone else at his level by their first names, because parenting me wasn’t the role he had at work, and being his child wasn’t the role I had at work. That’s the issue with the OP’s coworker: the relationship at work is boss/subordinate, not parent/child, and so the coworker’s language should reflect that.

      Also agree 100% with Observer that you are a “full grown up” if you’re 22 and support yourself. Maybe you could make a date with your parents to walk you through the paperwork that you find challenging, and then be “on call” for you to talk you through any snags you hit as you go forward? I sympathise with how hard it is to learn how to live independently, but it’s one of those things that pretty much has to happen! Taking responsibility for yourself is really satisfying once you learn how to do it.

  35. Cafe au Lait*

    Oh, boy, that’s annoying. I use my husband as a gut check for some work situations, and he does the same with me. A couple years ago he dealt with a sexual harassment issue at work between two of his employees. After doing the preliminary footwork, he ‘checked-in’ with me on how he planned to handle it. After a lengthy discussion, he changed direction a little to incorporate two of my ideas/suggestions but the majority was still his initial plan.

    1. JulieBulie*

      But I bet he didn’t start off with “my wife says…”! Right?

      Everybody (okay, most people) occasionally discuss work stuff at home. Some more than others, no doubt. Sometimes it’s just venting, but other times, maybe something comes of it. That’s cool. That’s normal. But whatever comes of it, you take it to work the next day and that’s that. It’s not at all the same thing as actually bringing work home to your spouse!

      It is really odd that OP’s coworker hasn’t noticed that no one else reports their spouse’s opinion of the subject at hand. It’s almost as though he doesn’t want to take ownership of any ideas he brings to the table.

      OP’s coworkers are very patient and polite compared to some people I’ve worked with, who would have shut this guy down within a week by saying “Your wife isn’t on this team. Nobody cares what she thinks.”

  36. Louisa*

    The wife thing is totally bizarre — though it sounds like maybe he’s consulting her about graphic design stuff, which IS the industry she works in, though she doesn’t know anything about the industry he’s working in and I totally believe that she’s giving bad advice, etc.

    The dad thing is just such a non-issue to me that I’m surprised by how many people are talking about how incredibly unprofessional it is. I think it’s much weirder to call your parent by their first name, or by their title (!), when everyone knows you’re their child. I’ve only worked with my parents in a more informal context (family restaurant when I was growing up), but it would have been bizarre, even as an early 20-something, to start using their first names.

    The guy in question constantly saying “well my dad says” or “we should ask my dad” or whatever, that starts to get weird, but it’s weird because it just points out that he’s unqualified. But referring to his dad as his dad generally? Eh. Seems like a complete non-issue to me.

    1. OP*

      It is pretty consistent, and it happens a lot, being that he’s on his dad’s team and works directly under him.

      I’ve definitely gotten mixed feedback on this, from “I would never call my parents by their first name” to “I can’t believe he’s not calling his dad by his first name.” I guess aside from the fact that I personally think it’s weird, it’s also just not the norm in our company (no other pair of relatives ever refers to each other this way, always by first name). But I can definitely see your point of view.

      1. nonegiven*

        When I was a teenager, I worked at the same store as my mom and grandmother. My mom was the office person, payroll, reports, bookkeeping, my grandmother was head of a department. We all reported to the manager and assistant manager. I was usually assigned cashier, fabric or stocking (facing) and had almost no interaction with either of them. I still called them the same thing I always did.

        Later on, I worked at a factory after school and would do whatever, from office type things to machine shop and parts department. My dad was headhunted by the owner after I was already working there. He was head mechanic. I still called him daddy. We had the same supervisor.

  37. Louisa*

    But it isn’t his dad’s company, right?

    I think it’s more bizarre, if it isn’t a family business context, that he reports to his dad at all. Will his dad also do his performance reviews, etc?

    1. OP*

      Nope, not his dad’s company. His dad has been a salesperson here for a very long time and has a lot of clout.

      One of the things that makes his situation different/worse that other pairs of relatives that work here is exactly that: he works right under his dad and his dad is responsible for all that managerial stuff. That’s not the case with any other relatives here, but it has happened in the past.

      1. NotThatGardner*

        whoa! how do they handle the management type stuff like reviews, time off approvals, feedback, etc? that seems like a way for things to go un-fixed or solved pretty fast, or for things to get nepotistic (is that a word? is now) beyond the norm.

        1. OP*

          That is a really good question! Thinking about it now, they actually probably do things different since they are in sales, and there are a few folks in higher-up jobs who manage/mentor all of our salespeople. So what I said above might actually not be correct, but yeah, it’s still weird for sure!

          1. NotThatGardner*

            oh yeah — wasn’t trying to imply it wasn’t weird to being with, just that if the father is directly managing the son in those things it’s *even weirder*. it’s still an obvious issue regarding the other stuff you’ve said without that, though.

            hope you’ll update us!

            1. OP*

              Oh yeah, even if your dad isn’t doing your formal evaluations, he would still have to give him a lot of direction and feedback, and I can’t imagine that isn’t weird?

  38. NotAnotherManager!*

    When I was in grad school, one of my final project team members included her husband (not enrolled in the program) in team meetings and even had him argue a point that she was dead wrong about (and would have negatively impacted our final grade because it displayed a stunning lack of understanding of a core component of the project) on a team planning conference call. I told her pretty directly that the meetings were only for people working on our project and that, if she continued to have him join our calls/meetings, that I was going to ask the professor to reassign her to another group. It is hard enough coming to a consensus with five team members, I didn’t need a sixth – who wasn’t attending class and hadn’t done the reading! – gumming up the works.

    1. Observer*

      That’s just bizarre. How did she react when you called her out on it?

      It’s so weird that I have to wonder if she showed any signs of relationship problems?

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        She tried to argue with me at first, but I had backup from the group and she wasn’t a confrontational person (hence having her husband argue her point for her). I don’t think that they had an abusive relationship, I just think that she didn’t have a lot of self-confidence and he was trying to advocate for her. My sense from the few times I met him was that he was pretty nice and very supportive of her getting a degree to move in to a field that interested her. I think that the over-involvement came from a place of affection for her not control.

  39. Amberwitch*

    I’d be worried that he was sharing priviledged information with his wife, so I’d take this into account in my response so it didn’t appear as if I endorsed it.

  40. Denise*

    Here’s a thought. When growing up as a boy, was he witnessing his father talking about work while at home, and soliciting opinions and advice from his own mother? Now that he’s grown up, did he take the wrong lesson from that experience and now believes he should conduct himself accordingly? If this is his first job, he may not have any other experiences to draw from and may think it’s normal for people to consult with their spouses at home about work-related decisions. Could you casually chat him up and ask what jobs he’s held before this? I just have a feeling this is his first work experience, and doesn’t know this is abnormal on-the-job behavior.

  41. nonegiven*

    I did teach my husband how to do something in Quickbooks when he first worked with it, and I told him how to use Google search. He didn’t go running into work and say “Look what my wife taught me!” He did come home and say, “It worked! Click, click and there it was!”

  42. OP*

    Since I forgot to put it in the letter, and it offers good context that some people might not see in my comments buried in threads, I’ll put it here:

    This salesperson works directly under his dad. His dad runs a niche team in one of the major departments in our company with 5 or 6 people on the team , with this salesperson being one of them. He’s the only person (at least that I can think of) with a relative working here who works directly under them. In every other case, the relative works for the other major department or one of the smaller support departments. In my opinion, that adds an extra layer of weirdness to that situation.

    And with the wife issue, it did begin with him soliciting her feedback on graphic design (which she went to school for), but her feedback was pretty bad and our designer 100% ignored it. And he has continued to solicit her feedback on projects that have nothing to do with graphic design, which is what prompted me to write in. While it’s understandable to have her look at something she might have some experience with, the fact that he doesn’t seem to understand it should be confined to that made me want to say something to him to let him know it’s a little weird and unprofessional.

  43. Kiwi*

    The guy running things past his wife rings warning bells in my mind about abuse. She’s probably not abusing / controlling him, but it could be worth keeping the possibility in mind when you talk to him. Maybe an “are you ok?” at some point of the conversation.

  44. Zip Zap*

    Does this person, maybe, come from a community where this would be normal? Could it be a cultural thing? Just throwing that out there. It doesn’t change the fact that it’s inappropriate here and needs to stop.

Comments are closed.