should the CEO’s kid get special treatment?

A reader writes:

I just started working for a new company, and it’s a small, family-owned investment firm. Everyone here is really nice, but I noticed one thing that I thought was kind of strange.

The CEO/owner’s daughter is an employee here, and she gets special treatment. For example, we all get 30 minutes for lunch, but she’s been taking breaks over 1.5 hours long – sometimes with her father, and sometimes not, and she pretty much comes and goes as she pleases. I realize that as the CEO/owner, one can do practically whatever they want, but does that also apply to the daughter? Isn’t it a tad unprofessional to give her special treatment, when she’s supposed to be an employee like everyone else?

Like I said, everyone is really nice, and I’m really quite happy at this new job. I just thought this was a bit unfair and wanted your perspective on this. I don’t think there’s anything I can or want to do about it, but I’m at least curious if anyone agrees with me.

I answer this question — and four others — over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • Temporary change in my job is becoming permanent
  • What does it mean if an employer says they’ll keep me in their “talent pipeline”?
  • I almost fainted during a meeting
  • Does salary reflect the type of candidate an employer is looking for?

{ 186 comments… read them below }

  1. Greg NY*

    #1: No one SHOULD get special treatment. Do people get special treatment, absolutely, and that’s something you need to accept whether you want to or not. Special treatment can be nepotism (as in this example) or it could be something like a high performer getting slack where it comes to a dress code. Some particularly outrageous employers think parents should get increased schedule flexibility. Asking for the person’s special treatment to stop isn’t going to work, but you should instead ask for the same treatment, and cite reasons that would make it tough for them to say no. If you want longer lunch times, say that you are getting your work done and will still get it done if you take longer lunches and work fewer overall hours.

    When there is favoritism involved, there is no guarantee that you’ll get the same treatment, but it doesn’t hurt to ask. Ultimately, managers make changes when there is a negative impact on the business, either by people leaving or the work quality going down. Until that happens, your only recourse is to accept an answer of “no” and work toward an exit plan if you can’t tolerate the favoritism.

    1. Alldogsarepuppies*

      I’d argue that high performers SHOULD get special treatment as a means of retaining. I.E. at my company high performers are allowed to telecommute x days a week, but low performers are not allowed so their work can be better overseen and that they aren’t slacking off watching nextflix. High performers have earned the trust to not do so through consistent high level work. Why risk losing your best employee over something like jeans? Why have you right hand man quit because you don’t let them come in half an hour late to drop their kids off at school?

        1. Falling Diphthong*


          Also, while it sometimes makes sense to ask if you can do X too (maybe the reason Jane gets to do X is that she asked!) there is a lot more nuanced reading of the tea leaves to be done. Don’t ask when you’re on a PIP, for example. More broadly, don’t ask for the special treatment accorded high performers if you’re a medium performer. In the case here, asking for long lunches solely “Because Jane Jr gets long lunches, so why can’t I?” could make the point that Jane Jr gets special privileges for being Jr, sure. But what is accomplished by making that point explicit rather than understood? In that case I’d diagnose focusing on a molehill (Jane’s lunch is unfair to me!!!) to avoid the mountain underneath, and suggest either looking for another job or learning a not-my-monkeys attitude.

      1. Cordoba*

        Agreed, I definitely hold my high performers to a different (more generous) standard than average or below-average employees.

        This is because:
        1) They’re more valuable, more mobile, and harder to replace. I want to keep them happy so they don’t go elsewhere and leave me with a superstar-sized hole to fill.
        2)They’re more reliable and have proven that they’ll get things done to a high standard even in the absence of supervision. Sure come in late, work from home, whatever. I know they’ll take care of their assignments regardless.
        3) They’ve demonstrated that they have good judgement. Even if I let them wear jeans on normal days, I know they’re going to dress up appropriately when we have an important visitor on site even if I don’t specifically tell them to. I don’t need a rule to tell them what to wear – they’re capable of evaluating the situation and deciding (correctly) for themselves.

      2. Smithy*

        I think the point being made by Greg NY is more in regard to special treatment that doesn’t necessarily correspond to providing a high performer more flexibility. In the case of the dress code – if a place says no jeans, but there is a high performer or two wearing jeans all the time – placing that as a perk kind of puts the entire aim of the dress code into question.

        Similarly it’s not that parents shouldn’t have life/work balance issues taken into consideration – it’s just when theirs are valued or prioritized while those without children’s life/work balance needs are evaluated as less worthy.

        1. MK*

          I agree. If a high performer is allowed to wear jeans, that means the dress code isn’t about presenting a more polished image to clients, but about the management’s outdated formality standards. If a parent gets a flexible schedule, then it means it’s possible to get the job done on such a schedule, but the rest of us aren’t allowed to because management values face time. Etc..

          1. whingedrinking*

            Agreed. I dislike saying “high performers get special privileges/leeway” because what someone can and cannot do at work shouldn’t be about rewards and punishments; it should always be about performance. “Alex is allowed to do X because they do their job just as well regardless, while Bailey has to do Y because otherwise their work suffers” is an appropriate rationale; “Alex doesn’t have to follow the rules, while Bailey does” is an unhealthy mindset that breeds resentment.

            1. LQ*

              For the dress code think of it like Alex is able to follow a rule that says “always dress appropriately for work” which she understands as the day she needs to crawl around on the ground connecting computers and hooking up network cables she wears jeans, the day she has to meet with the VP and clients she wears a suit, and the days where it is mostly internal focused but there might be a client dropping in she wears slacks and a nice top and has a blazer she can throw on if needed. Bailey would need to have every single day and every single situation explained to her so for her “always dress appropriately for work and that means business casual, you can wear jeans on fridays (since we don’t often schedule client meetings for Fridays) as long as they are not ripped or torn, no flip flops, no whatever whatever…” As soon as you need all that detail and all that extra and you can’t be trusted to make the decisions for yourself because you haven’t demonstrated that decision making capacity then yeah, you don’t get the same leaway. I think that’s ok. And that doesn’t mean you’re bad at your job, it just means that your manager might not have the capacity to manage that ten thousandth conversation that day. And unless you know for sure you’re going to lean toward here’s our dress code follow it. And then if over a few years Alex shows that she comes in and says, “hey boss, I’ve got to crawl around on the floors tomorrow can I wear jeans” but she also doesn’t bat an eye and comes in with the suit on Friday even though it’s jeans day because she’s got a client meeting? At some point you might say, “Hey Alex, I trust your judgment on what you should wear.”

      3. DanniellaBee*

        Exactly! High performers should receive the flexibility they need and have earned through consistent excellent work. Trust is huge in the workplace. If I don’t feel I am trusted to do my work it impacts my job satisfaction and therefore my retention.

    2. Turquoisecow*

      I don’t think it’s particularly outrageous that parents get schedule flexibility (and I’m not a parent, by the way). I think people should be allowed a certain amount of schedule flexibility based on their needs and the needs of the company – kid schedules are certainly a valid need, as are doctor appointments, family issues, medical reasons, special occasions, and probably a number of other things I’m not thinking of right now.

      That said, I’m not in favor of nepotism. If the CEO’s daughter can take 1.5 hour lunches, then her colleagues should also. But also, it depends on the work being done. If she’s answering questions or emails on her phone during half the lunch, or these are client/business meetings, that’s different from someone who actually unplugs from the work while at lunch. But that special case should be decided based on personal and business needs (just like the schedule), not on family connections.

      1. Temperance*

        Eh, if flexibility is possible, it shouldn’t just be reserved for parents. I don’t think businesses should be determining whose life circumstances are special enough to merit extra privileges.

        1. Liz24*

          I agree with Temperance. I understand wanting to be flexible for parents, but unfortunately some employees/companies abuse it. For example, I was the only rep on my team required to work overtime on several weekends because “I was the only one without kids.” So my time is less precious because I don’t have a family?

          In regards to the CEO’s kid, the CEO is setting a poor example for the rest of the employees. However, that is the benefit of having your own company. Nothing to be done but accept it and move on.

        2. $!$!*

          Right, temperance. What about caregivers of aging parents, or lots of other reasons that might be just as valid as parenting

        3. bonkerballs*

          I think Turquoisecow agrees with you which is why she wrote “kid schedules are certainly a valid need, as are doctor appointments, family issues, medical reasons, special occasions, and probably a number of other things I’m not thinking of right now.”

        4. NorthernSoutherner*

          Agree with Temperance! No one’s life circumstances are more valid than another’s. And I say that having been both a childless employee and a parent. So what is the message here? I don’t have children, so… I get to watch while you come in late or leave early? I don’t think so!

          I have multiple examples of this unfair disparity, but let me go with the most egregious: a good friend, unmarried & no children, was always stuck with holiday duty at his company — the “reasoning” being that everyone else had kids and needed the time off. He tried repeatedly to get his higher-ups to realize that he, too, was entitled to time off over the holidays, to no avail. He had to SUE to get his time off. BTW, he’s still with the company.

          So, yeah, I may not have kids, but I don’t have time to do your job while you meet the schoolbus.

      2. McWhadden*

        I’m also not a parent. And parents getting flexibility seems incredibly reasonable to me. They have demands I don’t.

        1. Temperance*

          I’m active in several community orgs and nonprofits, and that is demanding, too. Are you saying that people without hobbies/active social lives should also be expected to work more/give up flexibility?

          1. McWhadden*

            No. But you also shouldn’t expect to be able to leave early for your non-profits. Because they simply aren’t the same thing as leaving a child to fend for him or herself if childcare falls through.

            1. doreen*

              I feel like a lot of these discussions about flexibility for parents conflate two different issues. Flexibility when child care falls through is not the same as flexibility for optional activities. Temperance’s leaving an hour early to attend a meeting is not the same as leaving a child home to fend for him or herself but it is the same as a parent leaving an hour early to get to a child’s activity. If a non-parent needs flexibility because care arrangements for an elderly/ill/disabled parent or SO fall through, that’s exactly the same as childcare falling through and shouldn’t be treated differently.

              1. Turtle Candle*

                Yes. When most of my volunteer requirements happen, they have importance, but not urgency. Nobody is going to go hungry or be left (as a small child–or, for that matter, a dependent elder) to fend for themselves.

                I like both parents and non-parents to have flexibility for things that are important–volunteer opportunities, hobbies, etc. But I think it’s fair to give priority to things that are both important and urgent, in the way that caring for a child, elder, dependent adult, or animal is urgent.

              2. Julia*

                This; plus how are people supposed to end up with children if they work all the time?
                Or, imagine struggling with infertility and then being told you have to stay late because unlike Jane, you don’t have kids.

                1. NorthernSoutherner*

                  Being told you have to stay late because unlike Jane, you don’t have kids, is B.S., period.

        2. Cordoba*

          I regard my childfree plans to do things like “front end rebuild on project car” and “train for marathon” to be *exactly* as valid and important and worth of consideration as Little Suzie’s swim meet and Timmy Jr’s school play or whatever.

          It’s a tricky thing to decide which employee’s free time activities are the most worthy; it’s probably best that employers stay out of it.

          Parents may well tend to get more flexibility because it means enough to them that they’re willing to ask for it and make compromises to get it, but nobody should get perks at work solely because they’ve managed to reproduce.

          1. McWhadden*

            It’s simply unreasonable to think your projects are as important as children who can’t be by themselves.
            I am also childfree and have lots of hobbies. None of my hobbies with land me in trouble with CPS if I leave them alone.

            1. Mike C.*

              So you believe it’s the responsibility of coworkers to ensure a parent can take care of their children?

              Should I forgo a raise so that parents can spend that on their children as well?

              1. McWhadden*

                No, I think companies should be flexible. If it creates more work than it shouldn’t be allowed. And people pretending that hobbies is the same thing just makes childfree people look completely unreasonable. And, actually, undermines as all.

                1. $!$!*

                  So what about if I have to make an elderly loved one to an appointment ? That’s just as valid as baby Tyrell needing to be picked up from daycare

                2. gwal*

                  Honestly what you did here was make it about parents’ ability to take care of their children when the original Cordoba post was about swim meets and school plays. Those *are not* keeping a child alive. Those are free time/leisure activities the exact same way a childfree person’s hobbies are free time/leisure activities. Yes, keeping a child alive is important. But the battle of the prior commitment should not always be won by those with small humans at home.

                3. Turtle Candle*

                  Yeah, I mean, I have no children. But nobody is going to be left sitting on the curb waiting for me if I can’t get out of work early.

                  I know that it’s not just parents who will potentially be letting someone be sitting on the curb (or un-fed, or un-sheltered, or etc.), and I think that people who are caring for elders or other adults, or even pets, should be given the same flexibility. But honestly? As someone with none of those requirements myself? Yeah, I consider things that effect a dependent creature as different than things that don’t. A kid, or an elderly parent, or a disabled person who needs assistance, or even a dog, waiting on you, is not like a hobby waiting on you. And that’s why it’s never going to be ‘fair.’ How can it be? Some people are supporting dependents and some aren’t, and yeah, the people with the dependents (sometimes) made a choice to be in that position (but not always!)–but the dependents didn’t.

                  So yeah. I expect that people with feeling dependent beings relying on them will get more flexibility than I do. And I count that the cost of working in a humane office.

              2. Chloe*

                Hear hear. Very tired of these VS arguments.

                Those parents who think they are more worthy of leave because they CHOSE to have kids and apparently didn’t put enough thought into how they would balance my commitments, then cry poor and expect others who aren’t family to take responsibility/help them out for their own decisions while the child free are brushed off as less deserving.

                I’ve seen it time and time again: parents who didn’t organise a sitter who then leave half a day early still paid for a full day, or they ‘forgot’ about soccer practice and need to rush off, etc. While child free with commitments struggle tooth and nail to get a little of the same flexibility on a far more infrequent basis.

                It all comes down to choice, people need to live and manage their own choices.

            2. Justin*

              Yeah kids events IMO are on par with the hobbies or events of a worker who doesn’t have kids, but childcare is non-negotiable and is more important than hobbies.

              1. Chloe*

                And having kids is a CHOICE! We make our own choices and should live with them, not expect preferential treatment because they decided to have a kid. The superiority complex of certain parents is startling.

            3. Cordoba*

              You misunderstand, I think my hobbies are as important as a random child’s hobbies.

              I also think my emergencies are as important as a random parent’s emergencies.

              The deciding factor is “is this a serious emergency or not?” rather than “does this include a child somehow?”

              1. Justin*

                I think that’s a valid factor, I say this as someone with a child who also was the “single guy with no family” for many years.

              2. Genny*


                It’s not about the specific thing, it’s about the category of thing. Jane needs to go to a funeral and that means Bob needs to cover her OT, thus missing his child’s school play? That’s really unfortunate, but Jane is facing an emergency.

                Jane wants to leave early on Friday to beat traffic to the beach, but Bob needs to leave early because his kids unexpectedly got early dismissal from school? Jane’s going to have to stay to cover for Bob (or the employer finds a way to do without both of them for the two hours they’d miss).

                Jane wants to leave early to get to a concert and Bob wants to leave early to go to his son’s baseball game? The manager makes a determination based on work load, who asked first, performance, or any number of measures. She doesn’t just default to Bob because he has a child.

          2. Snark*

            “I regard my childfree plans to do things like “front end rebuild on project car” and “train for marathon” to be *exactly* as valid and important and worth of consideration as Little Suzie’s swim meet and Timmy Jr’s school play or whatever.”

            I really hope you’re being facetious as hell right now, because otherwise….wow, are you not exactly covering yourself with glory.

            1. Fergus, Stealer of Pens and Microwaver of Fish*

              Seriously? If your kid is sick or your sitter fell through, then that’s one thing. But why on earth would your kid’s “fun stuff” be more important than my “fun stuff”?

              1. Cordoba*

                I am not being facetious. I do indeed absolutely for sure regard my marathon as equally important as a colleague’s child’s swimming.

                I didn’t give examples centered on emergency childcare or sick kids for exactly that reason.

                Emergencies, whether child-related or not, are by definition unplanned and serious and of course merit special consideration and flexibility.

                I do not regard the routine, planned, non-emergency day in and day out aspects of parenting as any more inherently important than anything else a co-worker has going on in their free time.

                I can live with it if this outlook deprives me of glory to which I would otherwise be entitled.

                1. Snark*

                  “I do not regard the routine, planned, non-emergency day in and day out aspects of parenting as any more inherently important than anything else a co-worker has going on in their free time.”

                  This is so out of touch I almost have no idea what to say. Are you really this self-centered, or is it performative?

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Yeah, Snark, I agree with Cordoba on this one! We can debate whether they’re of varying importance to society as a whole, but there’s no way an employer should be in the business of deciding that kids’ non-emergency activities are more important to accommodate than employees’ own activities.

                3. Snark*

                  I mean….yeah, don’t get it. If I need at least two people in the office on Thursday afternoon, and Cordoba comes to me like “Hey, is it OK with you if I jet at 3 so I can train for a marathon,” and Fergus comes to me and says, “Hey, my kid is running in the regional track meet over in Alpaca Town and I’d really like to be there to cheer him on, so can I leave at 3,” it would be very difficult for me to get into a headspace where the two requests get equal priority for accomodation.

                4. Snark*

                  Hm. That strikes me as strictly equal treatment, yes, but I don’t think equal is necesssarily equitable in this case – I’d think it would be less inclusive to the parent, and corrosive to morale, if the track meet weren’t accomodated and something that didn’t involve a strict commitment to one’s presence at a particular time and place was.

                5. Snark*

                  In any case, this exchange has given me some points to mull over that I’m not 100% sure yet whether I agree with, but which at least carry a little more weight for me in the context of employer decision-making than “but my hobby is just as important as your kid’s education” and arguments along those lines.

                6. Elizabeth*

                  Yeah, Cordoba, I agree with you. There’s no way we can really judge who has the more important extracurricular activity, and everyone’s are important to them.

                  Snark, I…don’t really get your line of thinking. First, no one is arguing about emergencies. Of course emergencies of any kind (child or otherwise) take precedence over anything else.

                  In the workplace scenario you described, you say that you’d give immediate preference to the parent who wanted time off for child activities over someone who wanted time off for personal activities. Well, that’s a real good way to kill morale. Sure, I’d agree that parents should get some flexibility in the workplace, but that doesn’t come at the expense of ignoring all non-parents.

                  What if you have someone on your team that desperately wants to be a parent but can’t for medical reasons? In addition to it just being poor management, how do you think they will feel with having you constantly throw that in their face by reminding them that they’re not parents so they don’t get this and this?

                  And, last thing…marathon training is totally awesome and badass. So, yeah, there’s that.

                7. MLB*

                  Snark, in your example of marathon vs. kid’s track meet I’d say yes to the one who asked me first. Unless it’s an emergency (whether child related or not), asking for time off/to leave early should be on a first come first serve basis. Would you seriously go to the marathon runner (if they came to you first) and say “Sorry but Johnny’s son has a track meet and needs to leave early so I’m taking back my approval of your request to leave early”?

                8. anonforthis*

                  My free-time activities include working with a dog rescue to get dogs placed in foster homes before they are euthanized and volunteering at a domestic violence shelter so it can operate 24/7, which it can only do by using a significant amount of volunteer hours.

                  I think keeping animals from being killed because they’re homeless and keeping a shelter running are as important as needing to be at someone’s zillionth soccer game of the season.

                9. Elsajeni*

                  @Snark, that makes sense, but “one can be done at any time, the other involves a commitment to a specific time and place” isn’t really related to which one involves a kid. If it was Cordoba’s marathon training against Fergus’s kid’s batting-cage practice, or Fergus’s kid’s track meet against Cordoba’s paid-and-registered-in-advance 10k run, would you still feel that the kid’s activities should always take precedence?

                10. Les G*

                  Alison, Snark’s “self-centered” comment is the kind of thing folks are talking about when they complain about uneven or biased moderating. That’s an outright personal attack on another commenter, which you clearly saw but ignored.

                11. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Aggh, actually I didn’t see it until just now (I didn’t see that comment from Snark when I was replying to Cordoba’s post; it may not have been there when I originally loaded the page), but yes, I absolutely agree that’s over the line! That kind of personal attack is not okay here, and I’m sorry I didn’t spot it earlier.

                12. Snark*

                  And I apologize for the personal attack; this touches a nerve for me, as I have essentially zero flexibility in my own life and parenting these days. When I get pissed off at the comments here, that should be my signal to stop posting, not to dig in.

                13. jolene*

                  Cordoba, perfectly said. Elegant, concise, witty. I absolutely deplore Snark’s attack on you and hope it will be taken very seriously.

              2. Snark*

                Seriously. “Swim meet” and “school play” are not “fun stuff” in the sense of an adult’s side hobbies and pastimes; they’re core elements of primary education, properly regarded and planned around as coequal in importance to classroom time or homework.

                And because you’re an adult, with a car, and money, and free time you can schedule as you please, not a child dependent on a parent for transportation, logistics and support. If you want to train for a marathon, and you leave work at 4:00, you can change when you get home and head out at 4:30 or 4:45, and if you get hungry on the way back you can stop and grab a bite and a pint, as you will. A dependent child needs a ride to the other end of town, a stop by Subway or whatever to pick up dinner at 7:30 when the meet finally ends, a hug when they come in dead last, and someone to help make sure they remember their track spikes or whatever.

                1. $!$!*

                  People have different priorities. If I have children and they never attend a swim meet or participate in a school play that means that they missed out on “core elements”?? Core elements of child rearing are different based on lots of different reasons and don’t always relate to parents having to leave work early. And no I am not anti children.

                2. Snark*

                  “If I have children and they never attend a swim meet or participate in a school play that means that they missed out on “core elements”??

                  If one’s children miss out on extracurricular athletics and/or arts education, yeah, I think that’s a critical hole in their education and a set of irreplaceable experiences.

                3. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

                  I am a volunteer ESL tutor for refugees. You better believe my commitments to the families I work with are just as important as you going to your kid’s swim meet. Push comes to shove, in most cases your kid’s other parent, a family friend, another relative, etc. can go and fill all of those roles. I don’t have back up and if I skip out my families will often be stuck with paperwork they can’t read or situations they need help with and no one to turn to.

                4. Snark*

                  Well, that certainly weighs higher than marathon training, yes!

                  Interesting that you think families may be generally relied on to have backup. It’s nice when they do. It’s not always the case.

                5. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

                  @snark I’m well aware that families don’t always have back up or that back-up can’t fall through. I was that kid left after school/events often enough because my parents didn’t have the kind of jobs you could leave early from without being fired. I spent so many hours hanging out with the janitorial staff!

                  My point was that even childfree people can have things after work that are just as important as going to a swim meet/kid’s play

                6. Koala dreams*

                  I’m suddenly happy that I had such a good school, where we had teachers responsible for swimming lessons and drama lessons, on scheduled school time, no parents required. If schools require parents to do the education of their kinds, that’s a big problem, but I don’t see how that is solved by giving the parents somewhat flexible schedule.

                7. Les G*

                  The performative wokeness on display here from Snark is breathtaking. If you think Dangers comments are “interesting,” I have to suggest rereading your own and noticing what kind of assumptions about childhood and parental involvement underlie them.

                8. Snark*

                  Les, if you’re going to bag on me, don’t use the phrase I invented to do it; or at least, not if you don’t want to further entrench the impression that you’re entirely overinvested in what I post and looking for opportunities to take a shot or two.

                  I’m willing to discuss my assumptions, but not the way you’re doing it.

                9. Les G*

                  Snark, I can’t take you seriously if you’re claiming to invent a phrase that has been all over Twitter for years. That’s too much and I have to wonder if you’re even being serious.

                10. Temperance*

                  This is a false equivalence. I’m childless, but I manage a chronic illness and I’m in a one-car household. I can’t just breezily do whatever I want whenever I want, like you seem to think we do.

                  I need to leave work on time if I want to exercise or get to a volunteer commitment.

                11. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesInYourHouse*

                  If you choose to have kids, it’s your choice and your responsibility. Not your co worker’s. If there’s an emergency, yes. But f I have approval to leave at 3 PM because I wish to do X and someone wants to leave for kiddo’s ball game, nope. I, who asked first, should go, not the parent.

                12. Banana Pants*

                  I’m a working parent whose kids are involved in multiple sports and extracurriculars, and you’re so off-base on so many fronts here that I don’t even know where to begin.

                  It’s this attitude of entitlement by virtue of being a parent that causes problems for the rest of us. I really don’t like that I’m tarred with your brush. Sorry, but Junior’s track meet or school play is not “coequal” in importance to classroom time or homework. They are indeed pastimes – important for many families, but still optional. Your choice to leave early to go to Junior’s track meet is not automatically more important than your coworker leaving early to go race in a triathalon or care for her elderly mother.

                  I work full time, and because my husband works nights I’m primarily responsible for picking the kids up at after school care and getting them to swim practice, a lacrosse game, scouts, or ballet. I’m fortunate to have a job with enough flexibility that I can usually make it work. But if a crisis comes up or a critical meeting is scheduled to run long, we occasionally are late to or miss an extracurricular. The kids know that our jobs provide the disposable income that lets them participate in most of those extracurriculars in the first place – and that even though we do our best, sometimes work needs to take precedence.

                13. Chloe*

                  I’m thanking my lucky stars I don’t work for a manager like you Snark, but rather one that understands peoples priorities and life choices are different, one person’s choice is not more important than the others. Only times he gives more weighting to one person’s time off is when one has an emergency situation and the other person doesn’t (which I agree with).

                  And as for whether or not your doing a societal service for having kids… well that’s a hot debate for another thread.

                14. Chloe*

                  They may not be but that’s the choice you make when you have kids. People make choices, people need to live with those choices and not expect others to bend over backwards to accommodate those choices.

                  You’re time is no more important than any one elses just because you chose to have a kid.

                15. Fergus, Stealer of Pens and Microwaver of Fish*

                  Fine. Then quit your job and be a stay at home parent so you can tend to the pressing educational aspects of watching your kid lose at swim meets and terrible band concerts. Oh, you have to work for money? Then work and dont expect others to pick up your slack.

            2. Not a Blossom*

              I’m curious as to why you think that. My free-time activities are not as important as making sure Suzie and Timmy are under the care of a responsible adult, sure, but they are as important and attending Suzie and Timmy’s activities, which are optional. Your kids aren’t going to be scarred for life if you miss an event. In high school, my sport involved meets that were right after school and my parents couldn’t come. It was not a big deal.

              Moreover, my down time (what precious little I get) is extremely important to me because it keeps me sane and able to perform at a high level. It may be optional, but it is incredibly important to me.

              TL;DR: Child care absolutely takes precedence over optional activities, but all optional activities should be treated the same by an employer.

              1. Snark*

                If the kid can make it to the meet alone and unaccompanied, sure, it becomes a lower priority. I’d still argue that it’s more important for a kid to have the attendance and support of their parents, all other things equal, than for a singleton to have their choice of running times or an uninterrupted stretch of tinkering on a car.

                Parents are, also, not going to be wildly sympathetic to discussion of downtime.

                1. Snark*

                  That said, if it’s not connected to school – school sports, school play, extracurricular activity of some kind – yes, I think the priority level drops to about the same. So “I need to leave early because my kid wants to go to the park” and “I need to leave early to train for a marathon,” sure, first requestor gets the time off, no preference. But if it comes down to “my kid’s state swim meet is this afternoon” or the marathon, sorry.

                2. Not a Blossom*

                  “Parents are, also, not going to be wildly sympathetic to discussion of downtime.”

                  Well, that’s a whole other can of worms, isn’t it? Parents can be unsympathetic because they are busy, nonparents can point out that children don’t fall out of the sky and parents chose to have them, and the argument can go on forever. And what about when you have a parent is is a mediocre or even average performer but a nonparent who is a superstar? Or a parent who works regular hours but a nonparent who consistently works extra hours? What about nonparents who have other relatives for whom they have to provide care? What if the parent has full-time care for their child/children? What if, say, the nonparent has a limited time in which they can do an outdoor activity because of lighting or safety concerns or anything else? Whose downtime (and attending children’s activities falls into the downtime category) is more important?

                  Basically, there are so many variables that ranking the importance of people’s downtime activities would be a nightmare, and I doubt you’d be able to get people to agree with the ranking. That’s why it’s probably best for employers not to make judgment calls and to treat all employees’ optional activities as equal.

                3. Snark*

                  Sure, but like I said above: it would be very hard for me to treat a request to go do a hobby and a request to accompany a kid to an extracurricular school activity equally. And I say that as someone who values his time on the trail and in the kitchen higher than many other things in his life – even stuff that’s parenting related.

                4. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  In addition to what Not a Blossom said, you’d also need to get into judging, “Well, Bob wants to go to his kid’s thing, but I know he has a wife who’s going to be there, whereas Fergus’s wife works long hours and so maybe he’ll be the only parental presence…” It’s just way more than a manager should be involved in adjudicating. You have to treat everyone’s need and desire for flexibility as equally deserving, because that’s the only way you can manage effectively or fairly and not completely piss off good employees over time.

                5. Lois*

                  Sometimes ‘singletons’ don’t get the choice of time either. If I want to attend a certain art class or run a certain marathon, I’d have to show up when they’re happening, yeah?

                  Parents may not be sympathetic to downtime, but that’s on them.
                  To say “you won’t get much sympathy” implies that parents were dealt the hand of child-rearing out of nowhere, like it was an illness or something.
                  Except, most parents aren’t forced into it. One way or another, it was a choice.
                  Part of that choice means they don’t have much downtime, but again. That’s they life they chose to live and I should hope they took that into consideration.

                  Why should my prioritizing of my downtime be looked down upon by parents because they didn’t consider it as important?

              2. Helena*

                “Your kids aren’t going to be scarred for life if you miss an event”

                Depends on the event, surely. But missing a five year old’s Nativity play IS a big deal, in a way that going for your evening run 20mins later than planned simply isn’t.

                1. schnauzerfan*

                  My Dad couldn’t get time off to go to my High School Graduation in 1978… Not that I’m still bitter or anything…

                  But yeah if flexibility is possible it should be accessible to everyone and fairly allocated. Your kids school trip is kind of equivalent to my dog show. We both knew in advance that they were coming up and should have equal access to time off. My dogs (or elderly parents) medical crisis is no more, or less urgent than your child’s trip to the ER. We both have someone who needs us… NOW.

                2. MullingThisOver*

                  Is it? I mean, I can see how a pattern of missing plays and recitals and soccer games (spanning several years) can have a lasting impact on a child, but a single event? It seems to me that if a five-year-old hangs on to the idea that that’s A Big Deal (after an explanation and heartfelt apology), that’s what they’re being taught.

                3. jolene*

                  “Parents are, also, not going to be wildly sympathetic to discussion of downtime.”

                  I really don’t care whether they’re sympathetic or not.

              3. Lissa*

                Yeah – lots of managers hear “kid” and immediately give priority, and it’s really really demoralizing over time to know that you can get bumped not just for emergencies but for life stuff that’s as voluntary as yours. It makes a person feel less valuable especially when it happens again and again – like nothing of yours is ever allowed to be a priority.

              4. Chloe*

                Banana Pants has hit the nail and illuminated the problem with Snark’s attitude:

                “It’s this attitude of entitlement by virtue of being a parent that causes problems for the rest of us. I really don’t like that I’m tarred with your brush. Sorry, but Junior’s track meet or school play is not “coequal” in importance to classroom time or homework. They are indeed pastimes – important for many families, but still optional. Your choice to leave early to go to Junior’s track meet is not automatically more important than your coworker leaving early to go race in a triathalon or care for her elderly mother.”

              5. NotMyMonkeys*

                Snark, I’m usually a big fan of your comments – they’re funny, on topic, and typically insightful. But when it comes to treatment of parents vs. non-parents in the work place, you’re really off base (and I’ve seen you argue this position on past threads as well). You’re obviously very invested in this topic, and I think it’s preventing you from really hearing and considering the other side. It’s up to you of course, but it might be worth taking a step back from commenting on threads like this where you’re too invested to have an unbiased view of the situation.

            3. Chloe*

              Depends on your perspective, my friend’s kids school play is far down the rungs on my priority list compared to my other commitments, whereas for the parent it’s high up (and so it should be).

              Why? Because I chose not to have kids so I could prioritize things important to me, such as caring for rescue greyhounds amongst other things. And yeah, caring for rescue dogs is definitely high up on the list compared to a kid’s swim meet. But hey that’s just me and happy to admit it.

        3. Persimmons*

          In previous jobs I often got flack for needing flexibility for eldercare, while colleagues who were parents were given flexibility. Companies often don’t mind employees BEING parents, but HAVING parents isn’t treated the same way. That’s a major problem.

        4. Kittenlove*

          They do have demands, but that was the decision that they made by having a child. I think everyone should just get a certain amount of flexible days/hours, without it being specifically for parents.
          I certainly value my time, even if it isn’t in the form of using it for child care. My demands are just different, but not any less valuable.

        5. MCMonkeyBean*

          I agree. For example our schools are closed today due to some flooding from Florence so a couple of coworkers had to come in a little late so they could arrange last-minute child care. It would be absurd to demand I should have also been able to come in late today just because they could.

    3. Colette*

      I don’t think the OP should ask, assuming that no one else gets the flexibility. (Or maybe she should ask, but without mentioning the daughter.)

      If it’s a small, family-owned business, there could be the expectation that the daughter will take over – which could mean that she’s meeting with suppliers, scouting out new office space, or other business-related tasks that aren’t officially part of her job.

      And if she’s truly slacking, the OP will not help herself at all by asking to do the same.

    4. Arya Snark*

      Having left a job due to pervasive nepotism, I will say that if it’s limited to just the owner’s daughter then it’s no big deal. That’s the owner’s prerogative and as others have explained, there may be more to it than meets the eye.
      For me, it was an issue because it was not just limited to the owner’s kid – it was her kid, his wife, the owner’s sister, her brother, his ex-wife and various close family friends who all got special treatment while the rest of us did what we could with the crumbs.

        1. Arya Snark*

          Well, there were two partners when I started but the CEO/Queen of Nepotism had a 51% share so she had the final say in everything. They brought in another partner so everyone had equal shares and I had hope, especially since I had a prior relationship with the new partner and knew him to be a good human. Nothing really changed though I talked with the new partner about them and I made formal requests that changes would be implemented. I said I would leave in 3 months if they weren’t and happily submitted my resignation exactly 3 months later. What happened after that, I have no idea but the office has since moved to another city/state.

  2. Working Mom Having It All*

    For the CEO’s kid question, I think this hugely depends what kind of business it is, as well as what kind of job the CEO’s daughter is doing. It also probably depends on the overall workplace culture and what standard others are held to.

    For example, if this is a small family business, and the daughter is barely out of school and in a summer job or intern-level admin type of position, I would just chalk it up to “none of my business” and move on. If this is a large company and the CEO’s daughter is in her 30s and in middle management, it would feel different to me.

    Likewise, if this is a workplace where everyone else is literally clocking in and out to take breaks, and these breaks are carefully monitored with disciplinary action for people who go over their allotted half hour, but CEO’s daughter comes and goes as she pleases, that’s something that would start to feel like something that needed action.

    I work for a company where the culture on my team is such that, if something came up and I took an hour and a half for lunch, it wouldn’t be the end of the world and might not even be noticed. I wouldn’t do it regularly, but it’s not like I would get written up. If I had a coworker who was regularly taking long lunches, I probably wouldn’t say anything. But yeah, if I were held to a more stringent standard while the boss’ kid was not, that would feel really different.

    1. Koala dreams*

      I also work at a small company where the owner’s family is treated somewhat different. Sometimes that’s just the way it is. Also, there are also downsides to being family. Family are often given better assignments and a more flexible schedule, but they are also in a worse situation when it comes to push back against overtime and finding a good reference, in the sense that it’s not ideal to have your parent as your only reference.

  3. Cordoba*

    Unless the CEO’s daughter’s special treatment negatively impacts the LW I’d recommend they focus on the fact that they seem to have a good job they enjoy and try to forget about it.

    Whether she “should” get this treatment or whether it is “unprofessional” is immaterial.

    It’s the owner’s prerogative to give his kids favorable treatment, this is a condition of the job that is unlikely to change, it does the LW no good to dwell on it, and any attempt to actually change it is very likely to make things worse rather than better.

    If the owner is doing something illegal or that actively hurts the other employees that’s a different story; but his daughter getting to set her own hours is not a big deal.

    1. Snark*

      Basically this. I mean, is it bullshit? Yeah. But is it OP’s bullshit to deal with? Nope! And that’s a wonderful thing. A problem you don’t need to get involved with is as good as no problem at all.

      1. Traffic_Spiral*

        Agreed. So long as you’re not having to put up with her being a jerk to you, or being in charge when she’s unqualified, or picking up her slack in the office, her lunch is not your problem.

        1. Anon from the Bronx*

          Dealt with something similar at OldJob. It was terrible for office morale, but we all just dealt with it as quietly as possible. But when boss’s child goofed off all day and then stated they needed help getting work out in a timely fashion, we were all NopeNopeNope, your goofing off all day does not constitute an emergency on our part. Boss was actually pretty good about that fortunately.

  4. pleaset*

    For her own good and the good of the organization, I think “no.”

    But if it’s really a family-owned business, the CEO’s daughter does have a special relationship and it doesn’t bother me that much.

    If it’s a business owned by others, perhaps shareholders or investors it would be egregious. Ditto in a government agency where the it’s the chief executive’s son or daughter (or daughter and son-in law).

  5. Detective Amy Santiago*

    Alison – please pass along to your editors at INC some praise for the fantastic stock images that always accompany your articles there.

    1. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

      I laughed at the first one — but I just went back and they’ve changed it. Why?! The little “executive” child was adorable and perfect.

  6. grey*

    I’ve worked for a company where the entire family had a financial stake in the business- therefore if they had special treatment, I didn’t really care as they, ultimately, had a lot more control. For my own sanity I would ignore the special treatment and just focus on how I was treated (or how my immediate coworkers were treated).

  7. aka Duchess*

    I will say that I am the daughter of the CEO of a small business, and yes, I do get special treatment, but rarely is that used to “treat myself”. Those extra breaks or weird hours are usually because I am doing something else for my family. Its not “Oh I am leaving at three today because i want to!” its more like ‘My mom is out of town, someone needs to get my brother from school, and my dad would rather i shoulder that responsibility so he can continue to work.”

    Yes, I am an employee of XYZ company, but I am also my families personal assistant, nanny, and everything else. I don’t mind doing this, I chose to take this job because my family is so important to me. But I can understand that other coworkers can get annoyed, and I have made certain comments explaining where I am going and why, and they seem to understand now.

    1. Ciara Amberlie*

      I think this can still be demoralizing for other employees, because you’re not the only one who has family commitments outside of work. It’s highly probable that several of your coworkers have siblings that need collecting from school, or ageing parents that need care, or kids that are off sick and need to be looked after, but your Dad isn’t letting them leave at three. They have to make other sacrifices to do it outside of work hours, which you don’t have to make. So although you don’t feel that you’re “treating yourself” you are getting the benefit of additional free time, because your family responsibilities can partly be taken care of in work time, whereas others have to put in a full day at the office and then take care of their home life afterwards.

      As CEO, it’s 100% his decision to make, but it’s still unfair to his other employees.

      1. Traffic_Spiral*

        But it’s really the boss that is getting the benefit of Duchess’ other duties – not Duchess. She’s running off to handle the Boss’s other work, because as her Dad he can make her do that – not running off to handle her own stuff. That wouldn’t bother me, I’d be like “well it’d be weird if boss made me pick up his kid from school, but I guess it’s not weird for you.”

        1. Justin*

          Exactly, it’s basically part of her job to tend to family stuff so her dad doesn’t have to. That IS the work, and she likely wouldn’t be able to do that if she worked someplace else.

        2. anon for this*

          Yeah. I worked for my dad for a bit and basically screamed and left the country when it became very clear that my brother was being trained to take over and I was being trained to be my father’s and eventually brother’s permanent personal assistant because that’s what women are supposed to do. Plenty of CEOs have personal assistants and I can see why they would prefer family members for that, given the range of things my father’s de facto personal assistant did for him, and how much I expected the role to expand the second I was promoted into the role that had always been his de facto personal assistant. (Which also had another more than full time job associated with it! And my father really started moving towards retirement in a few more years and has become extra bored and demanding and dear god I am glad I screamed and left the country.) In my position, being personal assistant was definitely primarily for the benefit of my father and not for me. Generally, my guess would be that that is always the case, it’s just that people are still often going to find being their family’s paid personal assistant more satisfying than many other jobs on the market.

    2. Bea*

      Bless this set up. I’m not related to any of my bosses, they never have kids who WANT to work for them. So I’m the personal assistant fill in for daycare and kids needing picked up, I wish their kids would step in.

      Granted I’ve never had just a strictly clocked 30 minute lunch either. So there’s that.

    3. Undine*

      So day a boss is subsidizing expenses in his private life by paying for them through his business. There are a number of ways this could impact other employees. Let’s say (for simplicity) that family member is working 1/2 time and is being paid full-time:
      * Is this a position where other people in the office need family member to be present? Does have FM absent frequently mean there are tasks they can’t get done because FM isn’t there to process her end of it?
      * Is Dad subconsciously expecting the other workers to pick up the slack? If he has 3 people in a department and they are only doing the work of 2 1/2 people, does he mentally assume that’s because the other 2 people aren’t working hard enough and forget that it’s because one of those people is really part-time?
      * Are there other reasons that co-workers have to work harder when FM is absent or take up the slack?
      * When Dad looks at his overall profitability at the end of the year, does he remember it’s off by half of FM’s wages, and remember to bump that up in his mind when it comes to giving raises or COL increases? If the business is really small, even half of someone’s wages (and benefits) could make a difference in the bottom line.

      1. aka Duchess*

        I feel like most of your bullet points are one in the same. I can not speak for the original letter, but …

        – yes I still do actual work and pull my own weight, and have been praised by my other coworkers for much I have helped them – even when they see me get pulled into multiple directions

        – I still am able to work on my phone and at home to answer email, collaborate on projects

        – Our work is not non stop – crazy – must finish this in five minutes, it is not uncommon for people in our industry to take anywhere from one hour – to two days to answer a non urgent email.

        – You are insinuation that I am making the BIG BUCKS because my Daddy writes the checks – I do not – while a make a living wage for my area, I am certainly not making as much as my coworkers or anyone else that does my job in the industry. I took a (substantial) pay cut to take this position, because working for (and helping) my family fulfills more than my previous job did.

    4. Snark*

      Here’s the thing: does he also extend flexibility to his employees? If, say, your teammate’s kid needs a pickup from school because mom’s out of town and there’s nobody else, does he get to leave and attend to that? Or does he have to frantically find someone else, or take PTO?

      All of our families are incredibly important to us. It’s still an exceptional privelege for your family to be able to delegate you to attend to (and simplify, and expedite) the sorts of typical family logistics everyone has to deal with. Don’t assume that because your coworkers understand that you’re not skipping out to catch a movie, they’re still 100% okay with what I suspect is not a level of flexibility they get to enjoy.

      1. aka Duchess*

        My dad is not a monster. Yes, he is very flexible with all of our employees and their families, schedules, and needs. Employees are expected to get their work done, but can leave if the need arises. It just so happens that my need happens more often, because while I still need to take PTO for doctors appointments, plumber calls, and the like – I am also worked into both my parents schedules.

        1. Snark*

          Certainly didn’t hope to suggest he was one – but it’s very easy for a family business to set up that dynamic, and that’s worth bringing up as a potential pitfall – and I say this having been the kid of the boss and watched my parents err on that side a few times.

          1. aka Duchess*

            I am sure you didn’t. Others seem to insinuate. I – in no means- ever tell my other friends to go work for their parents. It is truly not a glamours set up. One pitfall, which as a kid of a boss may know, is that I get a different level of professional tone from my father – i get the crap in the stick when hes upset because he can be mean and yell at me and not to his other employees.

            1. tangerineRose*

              Sometimes the boss’s kid gets none of the praise and most of the last minute “we need someone to do this!”

    5. h'okay*

      I worked for my father at a company he owned and at a company where he was an exec with no equity. I demanded for good reason to be treated like everyone else at the bigger company because it would be unfair for me to pull perks, not to mention inappropriate for him to afford them to me. It’s different when its a family-owned company, as Alison mentions a) its a CEO/Owner’s prerogative to consider employment for family members a purpose for the company to exist and b) you see the “perks” like 1.5 hour lunches, but you don’t see the downside of not being able to have a separate home life and expectation that you are always being trained to take over.

    6. SamPassingThrough*

      Fellow daughter of boss here (in my case my father is not the CEO, but still high-up management). It may just be a cultural thing but here, I am being scrutinized 24/7 by colleagues so I end up being the one with least flexibility.

      Other departments have flexible working hours and lunch hours while I stick to the schedule by the minute – the only times I’d return late from lunch would be because I worked well into the hour. Whenever this happens I make sure to let a colleague know my returning time by the minute. When I take leaves, sick or otherwise, I also make sure to be on ‘stand-by’ mode to answer questions via emails or messages.

      Even having enforced this to the best of my ability, I still get others commenting on how easy it must be, and plenty of ‘princess’ comments. But hey, it’s not that I can’t see where the idea is coming from! I just want to put it out that sometimes perception may not be the reality.

  8. Greg NY*

    #4: While fainting never looks good, there is a legitimate reason it’s happening. Just be matter of fact about it. As long as you tell them that it had nothing to do with not paying attention, you shouldn’t be judged for it. It’s a medical condition. Your manager and coworkers know about the condition, just tell the “VIPs” (I really hate that term) about it. When they know what’s going on, they will understand. And if they don’t, well, that’s on them. We can’t always control our medical conditions. If you are fired for it, it warrants a posting on Glassdoor, because it would be an absolutely ridiculous reason for firing. Besides, you probably couldn’t stop that near-fainting from happening even if you wanted to.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      “Fainting never looks good”

      You do realize that fainting is *always* a medical condition, right? If any company wanted to punish an employee for something out of their control, they are probably incredibly toxic.

      1. Lyka*

        “…there is a legitimate reason it’s happening.”
        “…you shouldn’t be judged for it.”
        “It’s a medical condition.”
        “If you are fired for it…it would be an absolutely ridiculous reason for firing.”
        All of those follow “Fainting never looks good” in @Greg NY’s post. I think you’re on the same page.

        1. Les G*

          This is starting to feel like nitpicking, so I’m hesitant to weigh in…but the obvious conclusion to draw from Greg’s comment is that there’s a kind of fainting that’s not due to a legitimate health reason. Which, as Amy was pointing out, is a hot steaming mug of BSroot tea.

          1. Helena*

            I read it as “I can understand why you might feel embarrassed to have fainted at work, but you shouldn’t because…”

            Same as running off to vomit in the bathroom due to morning sickness. Perfectly understandable, but I’d still find it mortifying to walk back into the office afterwards.

    2. MCMonkeyBean*

      I think OP’s concern is that they didn’t actually faint but during the time when they almost did they probably just looked like they were not paying attention to the meeting–so it isn’t immediately obvious to others that there is a medical issue happening and therefore they might assume she is just zoning out and hold that against her. But I think Alison is right that as long as her manager and HR knows about the medical aspect then she’s probably covered.

  9. Falling Diphthong*

    Alison has trained me to a Pavlovian:
    “I work for a small, family-owned–”

    For what’s actually described (long lunches) you don’t actually have to run here, OP, but you do have to be okay with the rules not applying to the CEO’s daughter. A lot of people can shrug off “Jane in that other department takes long lunches” but not being on the same team with Jane, where the special privileges that append to her dna directly affect them. (They get worse projects because she gets to choose the best ones for herself, they have to work late to make up for her leaving early, etc.)

    The champion being the letter re the employee of a small, family-owned business that expected all the non-family employees to take a pay-cut if the owner’s son was able to finally get paroled, so he could come in as a veep and it wouldn’t affect the overall budget.

    1. MechanicalPencil*

      I essentially had the same response. “Small” + “family-owned” = look for new job. Almost always. Same for non-profits, but that could be my own experience coloring my view.

    2. Bea*

      I make so much money working for family owned businesses through the years, the distrust and distain I often see here amuses me.

      I’m never some sort of second class citizen. My boss stopped taking money when things skidded during the recession to keep us all working.

      1. Dave*

        Not all family owned small businesses are bad. There are times where I work it is definitely messed up and I lost count of how many times I have had to remind them basic stuff is illegal, but I have way more flexibility where I am then at a bigger place.
        The key with family relationships is remembering they are family and stuck with work all the time. More importantly, one day they maybe your boss so plan for your future accordingly.

        1. Bea*

          My favorite part of small family business is that the people who sign my checks know me and respect the work I do for them. I’m rarely taken for granted and the one case where I was, I walked away. Unlike when there’s more layers and you end up getting cut or passed by for promotions for any amount of bogus reasons.

          It’s lead to me being able to make more money and be more marketable than my friends who were able to go to college.

        2. tangerineRose*

          I worked for a smallish family-run business for a while. Great people, good pay. Some of these businesses are good.

      2. bonkerballs*

        It’s just like all the people who assume non-profits have no work/life balance and everyone is paid pittance and expected to subsidize the organization’s shoe string budget. It’s all confirmation bias. No one is writing into an advice blog because the non-profit/family owned business is so awesome. We only hear the horror stories.

        Not to mention, people make a point of mentioning things like non-profit or family owned. They don’t make a point of mentioning for-profit or not family owned or whatever else.

      3. MCMonkeyBean*

        I think most people here recognize that there are lots of small family-owned businesses that are great employers–but the recurring issue is that if there IS a problem there are generally far fewer channels to deal with them. So you have to either accept the way things are, or leave.

        If the way things are is great then that’s awesome! But if not, then looking for another job is often the best solution. And since this is an advice column, the topic of small family-owned businesses is most likely to come up in the context of things not being great.

    3. Kara*

      I’ve done my time in small, family owned businesses, and sometimes you just need to shrug it off. Owner’s daughter works when she pleases, draws a full salary. Everyone else is paid hourly and only for the hours they work. Owner’s wife blows everyone’s year end bonus on “Office Christmas Decorations,” no bonuses for the year, but everyone gets to see how wonderful the twelve trees she decorated look for two months. I lasted 18 months.

    4. Scubacat*

      Heh. I’ve worked for both a SFRB (small family run business) and am currently working at a medium sized non profit organization. Both locations have been fantastic. There was also an employment stint at a badly run large nonprofit.

      At the SFRB, the other employees were offspring of the owners. From what I remember, there was no difference between us in roles or treatment. Though SFRBs can treat blood relatives preferentially, it’s usually not in their best interest to do so.

  10. EmilyG*

    This may not apply to #4 if she doesn’t have any more acute symptoms, but it might be helpful to share info with a few selected people beyond her boss. Years ago I was sitting working in my cube and the person next to me had a grand mal seizure and hit her head really hard on her desk. Turns out that she had epilepsy, which was treated, but her medication had been changed recently. The only person who knew about her condition was her boss who had been moved to sit on a different floor. Luckily I sort of remembered what to do from Girl Scouts first aid but she did later come up with a plan to explain what to do to a few more people. For one thing, someone else nearby called an ambulance, which was probably not actually necessary. At any rate, if OP #4 thinks she may faint and need people to know how to respond, it would help to include a few people who may be physically around her often, not just her boss.

  11. Greg NY*

    #2: You have some leverage in this situation because your departure would be bad for your manager. Sit down with her and explain everything you mentioned in your letter. You did this work 6 years ago and it is understood that it’s not usual to want to return to more menial tasks as your career progresses. You have been doing well in your current role (not warranting a return to those tasks) and you took this job with these higher-level responsibilities. While everyone needs to help out in a pinch, it should be temporary, not permanent. As for the lack of current lab skills, if she mentions it at all, just explain to her that you have such skills (and have been doing that lab work for the past four months with good results, she’ll drop it).

    That said, it’s not uncommon to pile on the responsibilities of someone who departed instead of replacing them. If after having this conversation she stands her ground (which would mean she knows you leaving is a risk despite how it would negatively affect her), you won’t have any other choice but to look for another job, even if you don’t really want to. I would probably stick it out for another 6 months because as Alison often says, it’s easier to avoid any questions about why you haven’t been in your position for a while if you stay a year. Hopefully it doesn’t even come to that after your conversation with her.

  12. What's with today, today?*

    #1) I have worked for a family-owned business for 10 years. This is typical and will not change.

    1. Escapee from Corporate Management*

      I have twice faced this at different companies. In one case, the boss’s child worked the same job as everyone else, was reviewed by a manager who was explicitly told to be honest, and got promoted when ready. The company is very successful and the boss’s child is well respected and on path to be a great CEO one day. In the other case, the boss’s child was held to different standards than everyone else, always had a glowing review, and once in a higher position, took several actions that hurt the company financially. OP1, bear that in mind as you look at your long-term future at the company.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        and once in a higher position, took several actions that hurt the company financially.

        This was my thought, too. It’s all fun and games until the CEO retires and his child is suddenly the new CEO. If OP does not plan to stay with the company that long-term, then, IMO, it’s okay to ignore the special treatment. Otherwise, since there’s nothing that can be done about the special treatment, OP should look into leaving a few years down the road. (So, basically, leave a few years down the road either way.)

        1. MsMaryMary*

          Yes, that would be my concern as well. If the CEO is approaching retirement age, I would be concerned about what will happen to the company when the child takes over the company. She could sell, she could be a figurehead while someone else runs the company, or she could try to run the company with no idea what she’s doing.

  13. kristinyc*

    My dad owns a business, and me, my sister, and my brother have all worked there at some point. My brother still works there and has for over 10 years. My dad treated/s us the opposite – he doesn’t want other employees to think we get special treatment, so is stricter with us than with them. On my first day one summer, I went to get lunch and wasn’t back in the 30 minutes allotted for lunch. He made me eat in his office so other people wouldn’t think I was being given special treatment of a longer lunch.

  14. Greg NY*

    #5: We use a lot of dating analogies here, and this is ripe for another one. I’m average looking, and I am not at all afraid to talk to beautiful women. I miss 100% of the shots I don’t take, and the worst she’ll say is “no”, leaving me no worse off than if I didn’t try at all. Maybe she wants kindness, someone down to earth, someone who will go out and explore places, not just arm candy. I do have to go on a date with a woman (no matter how she looks) to see if we’re a good match, but that’s the same as saying you have to interview with a company to know if it’s the right fit regardless of the salary.

    Just apply if you have the required qualifications listed (and it would help if you have some of the preferred ones). The worst that will happen is that you won’t get an interview (only the application time lost) or you will be asked about your previous salary in the interview. If your state even allows it to be asked (some have banned it), talk about the position you have and its responsibilities. Ultimately, salary is a product of your experience *in the responsibilities of the position* along with local cost of living or competitive pressures (employee supply and demand).

    Hiring is a market. When you go to buy a car, you negotiate based on the price of the new car, not based on how much more money you’re willing to pay for the new car than the one you currently have. The car you currently have is irrelevant, and except for employers who try to shortchange new hires (which is the reason for an increasing number of localities banning the question), the discussion needs to focus only on the new position and what you can bring to the table in that new position, not what you’re currently making.

    1. gwal*

      Your analogy kind of gives me the heeby-jeebies, but I do agree that “apply and just see if anything comes of it, what is there to lose?” is generally a good strategy for jobs one finds very interesting.

    2. Katelyn*

      Wow, Greg, I think that you should maybe not try to use dating analogies. This one is border-line insulting, and when I try to extrapolate it out to the work world turns into terrible advice. It sounds like you’re advocating for ignoring the job posting and job description because while it looks like they want a superstar employee (“arm candy”) maybe there’s other skills that haven’t been mentioned that you have that will be a great fit. Also it sounds like you’re saying to push for the interview because there’s no other way to know things, but if you’ve read much of the archives here you will know just how badly that normally goes.

      (Also, are “average looking” women the jobs that you’re well qualified for? Why are we comparing jobs to women’s looks!)

  15. blink14*

    LW #4: I also have been in a similar position. My family owns a small factory, and I worked there on school breaks during college, both in the office and on the floor. I always had lunch with the office staff (it’s a somewhat mandatory lunch hour, paid for by the company, because the location is in a high crime area), and sometimes left early to help with family related things, but mostly I worked full days. It was known that my family owns the company, but no one that I’m aware of took offense to that. It was also a fairly relaxed work environment in the office and shift work on the floor, so most people were used to seasonal/order specific workers coming and going.

    You don’t know what her agreement is with her parent or what the plans are for her future in the company. Part of the terms of working there may be that she has to join in on lunch meetings or help out the family and needing to come in late/leave early. Or she could be taking advantage and slacking by taking a long lunch break and not working a full day. Either way, just chalk it up to a perk of being the boss’ relative and move on from it. Stuff like this is pretty commonplace in small businesses who hire family and/or friends, and most of the time, its not detrimental to the business.

    1. blink14*

      To add – if I was ever to become a full time employee at my family’s business, I would work the required hours but realize I could also adjust my schedule from time to time more easily given the relation.

  16. Raina*

    Dad certainly isn’t earning the respect of his employees; nor is he preparing his daughter for the real world where accountability is kind of a big deal.
    But hey, I once worked for a small consulting firm owned and run by a man who ’employed’ his daughter too – she was on the payroll but didn’t have a role or any responsibilities, not even a desk. She didn’t work there but collected a paycheck. She would attend company parties though and not speak to anyone.
    I lasted 7 months, did contract work for them for about another 18 and moved on.

    1. Batty Twerp*

      I was once the daughter in question for about 9 months, but in an opposite way – worked a 6 hour day, got paid for 4, because I was attending client lunch meetings as a “sit in and observe” (and so not really working) kind of training.
      Ultimately decided I couldn’t step into dad’s shoes, and moved on (not my best decision, but nothing to do with dad’s grooming – I was already a veteran of the external workforce before going back to the family firm)

      1. WellRed*

        It doesn’t matter now, but really, I think observing two hour client lunches deserves to be paid time.

    2. Bea*

      Argh that old scam. Paying someone who doesn’t work for you is tax fraud. It reduces your expenses in a fraudulent way.

  17. Rusty Shackelford*

    I think if the dad were just the CEO, this would be an extremely inappropriate level of special treatment. But considering that he’s the owner… eh. It’s a family business, for all we know she’s being groomed to inherit it someday, and you’ve kinda got to think of it as working for The Family, and not necessarily The Business. As long as her work behavior isn’t directly impacting you (Mr. Shackelford worked for a small family-owned business where the children were given jobs like Payroll and HR and it did Not Go Well), it’s annoying, but not any more unprofessional than the VP getting special treatment, IMHO.

  18. Queen of Alpha*

    If this were at a normal company that produced widgets with a CEO that answered to a Board, then you can complain about nepotism. OP wrote this was a family owned investment firm. This mean’s its a family office managing their money and the OP is outta luck, different rules apply. There is a significant class divide between staff and family at these offices.

  19. Phil*

    My family had a business and in our business not only was there no favoritism, the son had to work twice as hard to prove there was no favoritism. My father was given the hardest jobs-we were painting contractors-as was I.

  20. MK*

    #1, I think a major part of the problem is lack of transparency. The one time I had a coworker who was the owners’ kid, the person doing the onboarding specifically told me the lid was set to take over the business and was doing the rounds working at each department in turn at various levels, so they could get first hand experience of how the company functioned. No ridiculous pretended that it was just another employee climbing the ladder.

  21. Favoritism does long-term damage*

    I worked at a company where the CEO’s son’s friends were hired on in roles that were not posted, and then put on the fast track to promotion into roles that were also not open to the whole company. Other employees with longer tenure who deserved promotions and raises did not receive them, became disgruntled, and eventually left. We thought that the CEO hired their son’s friends to motivate the kid to get a job, since all of his friends had jobs (at our company) and didn’t have time to hang out with the son.

    There was definitely an inner circle that received the CEO’s favor and those who did not. The nepotism hires were all younger, inexperienced people who didn’t clean up after themselves in the communal kitchen.

    I think the CEO also genuinely wanted to help out the friends who needed their first jobs. If they didn’t succeed in their role, they were given another job and kept on the payroll. We didn’t always know their official responsibilities, but it felt like their salaries were taking away our raises. It felt like hard work and success was not rewarded/compensated, but if you were friend’s with the CEO’s son, you had endless opportunities and were given all of the best perks/opportunities and access to the CEO.

    The company lost good employees and the CEO really did themselves a disservice as a leader.

  22. Ciela*

    #1 I work for a small company, and it specifically says in the handbook that nepotism is not allowed. Ummm, but the owner’s nephew has worked here for 10+ years. Of course this handbook is only about 4 years old. Nephew actually does a really great job, works long hours, etc.
    The one slacker we have, oddly enough, is the only outsider in the whole company who just answered a Want Ad. Anytime I describe her work, or lack thereof, in detail, I am invariably asked “which boss is she sleeping with?” Neither. I am quite certain that neither if the bosses is cheating on his wife with someone old enough to be his mother.

    So yeah, unless Boss’ Daughter is creating extra work for you, be like Elsa, and Let It Go.

  23. fogharty*

    #4 please let your doctor know about your almost fainting at work. I’m sorry about your mom and hope all goes well for you. There’s a heart condition that runs in my family as well.

  24. Grandchild of Owner*

    My family has a fairly successful medium-sized company. It has been around for nearly 100 years. My grandfather is the owner while my parents, aunts, uncles and some cousins have various roles. I have worked there before during the summers or when I have extra time during university. I have chosen to stay out of it (a mutual decision between myself and my mother and my aunt who is President and COO) for several reasons among them is LW’s and other commenters’ concerns.

    I truly did not want to be fresh out of university and jump into the family business and be given a cushy role. Not only would I overtake everyone who has worked there since before I was born, every accomplishment would feel like I got it because my last name was on the door. I needed something of my own, to prove myself on my own. And in retrospect, 10 years down the line, I would never have developed the work ethic that I have now and I wouldn’t have met or learned form the wonderful people that I have met in my current career.

    I have joked recently about going to work for my aunt (she doesn’t want me to, she says she can’t afford me which is technically true but I would accept a pay cut anyway). The main difference now is that given my experience, I would definitely hold myself at a higher standard than I would everyone else. There’s no room for error for me precisely because my last name is on the door and I can’t let them down. Unfortunately, that’s just the case for me. I can’t say the same for my other cousins who have taken an entitled view of working there. Nepotism is strong, LW. You will have to choose your battles wisely. This might not be one of them. :)

  25. Former Computer Professional*

    I may get skewered for this, but I will never again trust an HR department to tell me if I have ADA protection.

    Typically, ADA protection happens if you ask for an accommodation and the company determines if it’s possible to do without being a burden to the company. (They have to be able to prove it; they can’t just make it up. If a major part of your job requires you to lift 50 lbs and it’s not feasible to change it, that’s a burden. If it’s a rare part of your job and there’s someone else who can handle it, it’s usually not a burden.)

    My personal experience is that when I blanket asked an HR department for ADA protection, they came back and told me they’d researched it and I had no protection. Only years later did I found out that they’d either never done the research or flat out lied. (That wasn’t that HR departments only issue, so I lean towards the latter.)

  26. Diluted_TortoiseShell*

    Sometimes bosses just like to teach “lessons” because they have no confidence in themselves and exerting power over others is the only way they feel worthwhile.

    When I worked a surgery wing my manager bragged about how he forced a nurse to only give patients baths for an entire month because she had complained about having to bathe several patients her prior shift. She had argued that those were outside the scope of her duties and something bathe aids are better suited for.

    Manager and his buddy laughed and laughed about this story and said things like “That will show her! Full of herself much!” etc. All I could think was that it was a colossal waste to low work load an aide who is paid $7.50 an hour so that you can have a nurse paid $25 an hour do that job as a lesson in humility. That’s $2,800 more for the month paid to staff for the same job! On top of that overtime for other nurses would have reached $6,000 easy. All in all a material loss of $8,800!

    I asked him what happened to that nurse while they were laughing and he hand waved – “oh she quit. No biggie. Promote them to the competition I say cause I don’t need holier than tho staff on my team”.

    So $8,800 down the drain and she didn’t even her learn her lesson? And we have a nursing shortage and have to pay time and recruiting costs as well as orientation/training time for the new nurse? How many months of OT did our other staff have to endure before she was replaced? We easily spent $40,000 on the so-called “lesson”.

  27. In The Woods*

    Regarding the talent pipeline, lots of companies will hold on to resumes if they like your experience and background but maybe don’t have a position available or they found a better candidate for a position you applied for (maybe you were the first or second runner up).

    When I was in college, I went to the career fair my senior year as many college students do. I really hit it off with one of the companies there and gave them my resume and had an interview scheduled at some point. My interview skills weren’t great at the time, but I had prepared for the interview and did okay, but they felt I would be a better fit for a different position they had open. My inexperience definitely got the better of me and I didn’t really prepare for the second interview since it was the same company (I guess at the time I felt it was a formality to go through this 2nd interview. Big mistake!). I ended up not getting the job. I did find employment elsewhere and was there for about 3 years. 2 years in I realized I hated the job and desperately wanted out so I started job searching. I ended up getting a connection request for that company on LinkedIn out of the blue. Their HR called me one day shortly after that to tell me that the company was growing and wanted to bring me in for an interview – for the same position that I had interviewed for in the 2nd interview.

    They held on to my old college resume for about 4 years before I got that call. I’m so happy that they kept my resume on file as I love where I work now and enjoy (for the most part) what I do.

    Yes, the talent pipeline/pool does exist!

  28. I Can't Believe We Are Having This Discussion*

    Snark’s comments regarding how much more important it is for parents to be able to attend anything in which their kids participate than it is for other people to have the time to do whatever they want really made me wonder about him/her. Also, the importance Snark places on extracurricular activities in the first place further makes me question Snark’s perspective.

    If my kid is a genius who is working on important scientific experiments at the age of 10 or playing Mozart concertos by the time s/he is 5, then I can see how it would be important to have the flexibility to get the kid to the university research center or the concert hall. Under such unusual circumstances, I suspect that co-workers would be more likely to agree that the parent of such a child would need more latitude than most people for what are really non-emergency situations.

    Otherwise, nope.

    1. jolene*

      I so agree!

      Also: “Parents are, also, not going to be wildly sympathetic to discussion of downtime,” he said.

      I mean, who cares how sympathetic you are? I’ll talk about it anyway.

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