is the COO’s daughter trying to take my job?

A reader writes:

I am the marketing communications manager for a small (less than 50 employees) family-owned consulting firm. I love my work: I get to write, design, manage social media, coordinate workshop logistics, work with vendors. I get to contribute to a lot of projects and problem-solving, and I like the people I work with. My work is so varied that I am often challenged and never bored.

The head of this family-owned business is our 87-year-old founder and CEO. He still comes to the office every day and plays a large part in the day-to-day of the business. His son is our chief operating officer, and it is well assumed (though never formally announced) that he will take over the company when his father is no longer with us.

The COO’s daughter recently announced her intention to join the firm, and has been with us as an intern for the last few weeks. She is smart and hard-working and, admirably, she does not want to rest on the laurels of her family name. She wants to build a career here under her own steam, which I admire greatly.

The problem is, I think that the career she wants to build is MY career. She has expressed interest in joining the marketing communications team, and has written her own job description. This job description a) has a title vastly similar to mine (although I have worked here for 16 years and she has been with us about six weeks), b) borrows from several key components of my job (including some of my favorite parts of the job), and c) is nowhere near enough to fill a full-time job. And while this daughter has experience and talent in writing (for her own blog, not the type of business writing we do here), she does not have any of the other design or software skills needed to succeed in our line of work.

I am supposed to meet with the daughter soon to provide feedback on the job description. At some vague point in the distance, I am also supposed to meet with our head of HR and our president (my direct supervisor, who is supportive and kind) to discuss how to transition the daughter into a full-time marketing role within the organization.

On a personal level, I like and respect the daughter very much. But quite frankly, there is not enough of our type of work for two of us in this organization. I am often stretched thin, but not so thin as to support another full-time employee in the team. And at this point in time, she does not have the skills that can support the role, though she does have an eagerness to learn.

I am beginning to work out a training schedule for her, and getting her into some software and design classes. But am I doing all this at the expense of my own career? While I already have the skills and experience and relationships needed to succeed her, will her last name (however reluctant she is to throw it around) trump my hard work?

Should I start looking for another job? I love what I do here, and I think I’m good at my job, but is that enough?

Don’t start looking for another job yet, at least not until you’ve talked to your own boss about this.

It’s possible that the daughter is trying to take your job, but it’s also possible that she just put together her dream job description with no sense of whether it’s actually practical or not and that she’ll back off (or your company will) when you explain that parts of it aren’t feasible.

It’s also possible that she/they won’t, of course, but it would be really premature to decide that before you talk to anyone about it.

So start by talking with your manager and saying something like this: “I wanted to get your advice about the job description Jane is proposing she could take on. I have two concerns about it. The first is that she’s proposing taking on key areas of work that she doesn’t really have the experience or skill set to do effectively, like X and Y. We’d normally be looking for someone with a background in ___ for that work. The second, and frankly more concerning to me, is that what she’s proposing would mean she’d take over key responsibilities of my job — responsibilities that I enjoy and want to retain. It’s also not nearly enough to fill a full-time job. But to be transparent, my biggest concern at this point is that this plan would push me out — it would take away large portions of my job, the ones I have experience and expertise in, and leave me without a full-time role.”

It’s very possible that your boss will hear this and say something like, “You’re right, that makes no sense, and we need to figure out a different role for Jane.” But if she’s at all dismissive of what you’re saying — tells you it won’t be a problem, she’s sure there’s enough work for both of you, etc. — you could consider saying this: “I want to be up-front with you that I have serious concerns about what this means for my future here. This would be a significant change to my work, and if it’s carried out the way it’s written here, it’s hard for me to imagine that it would make sense for me to stay long-term under those circumstances.” (Don’t say this if your boss is the type to hold that kind of transparency against you, but the way you’ve described your boss and your workplace in general, this might be fine to share.)

In a good workplace, you’d have a very good chance that this conversation would result in major changes to the daughter’s plan. On the other hand, if they’re determined to bring her into the business with the job of her choice no matter what, it may not. But you’re going to know a lot more once you have this conversation.

{ 213 comments… read them below }

  1. Temperance*

    It doesn’t actually sound like she wants to build her own career through hard work, but that she’s building it through nepotism. She’s just pretending to want to do the work. In no normal, functional workplace would a person without any relevant experience or education just walk in the door, write their own job description, and have this be a successful endeavor.

    1. Eulerian*

      I disagree. I think she’s willing to learn and work hard, she’s just naive about what she’s capable of at this stage, or underestimating what her ideal job actually entails. I think most people entering the workforce do that to a degree.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        I agree with Eulerian, but with a caveat – her family may be looking to build the next gen of leadership, and this is a place to start.

        1. Psyche*

          I would also say that building a career through hard work and building one through nepotism are not mutually exclusive. It sounds like she is happy to get a leg up but also wants to put in hard work to make sure that she can succeed at the role.

          1. aebhel*

            This. It sounds like she’s willing to work hard; it also sounds like she’s expecting to get a leg up that the average person does not get.

            1. AnnaBananna*

              Which ….is….nepotism. No other trenchdigging post-intern employee would ever get to build their own position description, and likely will also make far more than said typical trench digger (my assumption, yes, but not entirely out of the realm of possibilities). To me this reads as nepotism. ESPECIALLY if her boss is pushed out.

          2. Jen S. 2.0*

            Agree with this. It sounds like she is bright and capable, and she’ll work hard at whatever role she gets, and she very much wants to learn and contribute and help the company succeed by being great at her role.

            But … she knows perfectly well that she’ll get a role in her family’s company, and it will be the role of her choice or very close to it. That’s already a massive advantage.

            Also, no hate over here. It’s tough out there, and I’m all about using whatever advantage you have.

          3. D'Arcy*

            Hard work and nepotism often go hand in hand, which is exactly why it’s such a successful strategy — you get handed a position tailored for you to excel, and you excel. But you do so over the head of everyone else. . .

        2. Clisby Williams*

          I agree – there’s nothing wrong with a family-owned business bringing along someone from the next generation. That seems pretty normal to me. However, if that’s the idea, I’d think a better way to approach it would be for her to rotate through multiple teams/departments to learn as much as she can about the company.

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            I agree rotating through would give the best training. That may be the plan, we just don’t know. The manager may not know. So it probably can’t hurt to have the conversation that Alison describes, and can’t hurt to keep the resume’ up to date, but I wouldn’t let ‘she’s coming for my job!’ become a focus.

        3. Jasnah*

          I agree. If she wanted to build a career purely based on hard work, she wouldn’t be writing her own job description for a job at her family’s company. It’s best for her and the family if she is happy and trained in a career that will benefit the business, and this is starting her on that path. You, unfortunately, are disposable. This is how family-run businesses are IME.

      2. Hey Karma, Over here.*

        I agree with you. The bigger reason that new and inexperienced candidates aren’t asked to write their own job descriptions is because they are applying for existing jobs with descriptions and guidelines. Yes, this young woman has an advantage. Her dad is COO and asked her, “hey, if you come work for me, what would you want to do?” and she answered him. The real test will be his response to her answer. I believe she is sincere and the COO needs to treat her like that. And also to treat LW like an experienced employee who can offer him guidance and perspective related to company needs and the young woman’s abilities at this time.

        1. Artemesia*

          If I were the OP I would search for another job and leave asap if she uncovers a good opportunity. Family businesses are poison to people not family and a newbie invited to ‘create her own job description’ who wants your job is going to get it. The OP has time. She need not rush off, but how sweet it would be if something great did open up soon and she could dump her job onto the newbie with two weeks notice.

          1. Hills to Die on*

            I agree – this has red flags all over it. Who the hell gets to just decide to write their own job description? It’s looks concerning to me.

            What’s the COO like?

            1. Lavender Menace*

              To be clear, it’s not necessarily uncommon that someone could write their own job description. However, the people who get to do that are usually established players in a particular field or industry, or at a particular company. It’s not common for someone new to the workforce to get to do this – but also not entirely unexpected since the founder and CEO is her grandfather.

              1. LGC*

                I mean, you can argue that she’s been established at the company for the past quarter century or thereabouts (LW doesn’t say how old this young woman is)…but I’m pretty sure that’s not what you mean.

          2. AnnaBananna*

            I wouldn’t go THAT far. OP spent a solid 16 years there before Daughter came along. Not so poisonous. Yet?

            1. RUKiddingMe*

              Of course it’s reasonable to assume that during the majority of the past 16 years that the “young” woman was a child/teen ergo wasn’t going to be working in any kind of career type position. Now..,

          3. MatKnifeNinja*

            Honestly, I’d be looking now too.

            If this person is anywhere competent (doesn’t screw everything up), blood gets picked over talent. The clock is ticking before family member gets bumped up, and you marginalize out the door.

            OP has some luxury of time to find a better position.

      3. Temperance*

        Sure, but most people don’t get to waltz in to a company that their family owns and write their own ticket. Getting your foot in the door is often the hardest part.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Sure. And this is the nature of a family business. Often part of its mission is to provide jobs for family members and/or the intent is to keep its management within the family (in which case it makes sense to bring family members in before they actually take over so they get to know the business).

          It’s not an inherently outrageous thing as long as it’s done with openness and transparency.

          1. AMPG*

            A well-known family-owned company in my region has a policy that any family members wishing to join the business need to spend a certain number of years building a skillset outside the company before they’re allowed to join, which I think is incredibly smart. Once they’ve paid their dues elsewhere, there’s a position waiting for them, but they’re expected to get and maintain that first job on their own, and to develop an understanding of how other businesses are run in the process.

            1. PeanutbutterJellyTime*

              My partner just left a family owned business because the level of ignorance was so profound as to make it impossible to do her job. Current owner and son have no outside work experience and dismiss the experience of anyone who does, if it conflicts with their bizarre concept of successful operations.
              They were able to parrot standard happy talk in their job descriptions & interviews, but no clue that employees expect follow through, consistency & basic decent pay & benefits.

            2. beepboopin*

              This. My dad owns his own business and while he would love us to join him, he has made it very clear that we would need to get our experience and training elsewhere before he would bring us on. However, none of my siblings and I are interested in his field of work so it hasn’t been an issue. But I’ve always respected him for this stance.

            3. Indigo a la mode*

              That’s the requirement at my company, too–although MANY people get hired here as a result of knowing other people at the company (myself included), the three founders all agreed that their children’s first job could not be anywhere here. Wise.

            4. Silver Radicand*

              This sounds a lot like how the largish family-owned company I work with does things. The next generation leader spent 10 years working and learning at other businesses so he would have the skills to bring in as one of our new VPs. And he really has brought a lot of good things in! I was actually really impressed.

          2. Close Bracket*

            With openness and transparency and WITHOUT pushing out existing employees. I hope that isn’t what’s in store for OP.

      4. Starbuck*

        But without the family connection, would she have the privilege of writing her own job description, at the entry level? It’s bizarre to me that they’redoing the hiring process backwards for her. Someone at the company should be figuring out what work actually needs to be done, not have her create a wish list of things the business may not actually need her to work on.

        1. Socks*

          Depends on the industry and people running the company, I think? I’ve got a friend who got a job doing… something, his first one out of college, for a music… studio? Maybe? Entertainment industry, anyway, and a company staffed by crazy people. They never gave him a job description so he did indeed write his own (I think it was framed as a perk of the job, but it was actually very confusing because he lacked the experience to effectively do that, just like in the OP). Then they put him in charge of a bunch of interns and paid him illegally as a contractor for like two years. I still have no idea what he does there. Anyway, poorly run companies can TOTALLY let entry level employees write their own job descriptions for reasons other than nepotism, is I guess my point. It’s not a good idea, but they can do it.

          1. Katelyn*

            My first job in the financial sector I never really had a job description, and certainly was never given a job title!

            I was the backup/junior for an important role (backup in the manner of running reports and directing urgent queries when the manager was away). Eventually when the department was downsized 8 years later I had to have a frank discussion with my boss about what I was going to put on my resume as my job title, since I had never been given one… I wanted to be sure anyone checking my references would see the same thing as he answered!

          2. Working Mom Having It All*

            I worked in jobs like that for most of my career until I went corporate. In my experience, there’s a difference between that kind of “no job description” and the OP’s situation. In the “he does… something???? … in the entertainment industry?” case, usually what that means is that either you have to figure out what your job is without anyone deigning to do anything boring and predictable like laying out any expectations, or there is no job description because you do anything and everything as needed. In the latter case, you often end up writing your own job description in the sense that you and only you know what it is your duties are. Both are terrible. Neither situation involves writing down what you’d *like* to be doing regardless of qualifications and then getting to do just that with no real oversight.

            1. AnnaBananna*

              It actually sounds like a faculty position in academia, lol. Actually even staff positions can somewhat write their own duties. It’s one of the reasons I love working in academia. Have an interest outside of your duties? LEARN, just get your work done too.

        2. Lavender Menace*

          Creating a wish list doesn’t necessarily mean she’ll get it though, which is why I think Alison’s point about the COO’s response being the important part is apt. When I had a really positive performance review at my current job, my manager asked me to basically make a dream job wish list as well. The idea wasn’t to actually allow me to do everything I wanted on the list – it was to take a look at the kinds of things I wanted to do and try to create space in my work for at least some of those, and to assign me tasks/projects that would be interesting to me.

          It’s possible that’s what they’re doing here, too – that while this daughter is writing her wish list there’s someone else in the company looking at what needs to be done, and that the COO and/or whoever would be managing the daughter will be using both to create her actual job.

      5. Comm Pro*

        She’s willing to work hard—at her choice of high-skilled and fun work that someone else has already earned at this company, and has the skills to do. If the daughter was really willing to put the work in, she’d pay the dues that most other people do when working their way up into a full-fledged communications position: Start out with the routine and less glamorous work, while learning from the pros. Walking in the door and expecting to fill a high-skilled position off the bat, and without considering the person already doing that work(!), is pretty entitled.

    2. Dragoning*

      I disagree. It sounds like this is part of her learning-internship process–basically, “what kind of things are you interested in doing?”

      Is the fact that her family owns the company allowing for that? Sure. But it definitely doesn’t sound like (at this point, anyway) that she’s simply walking in saying “Let me do this” and having it handed to her. They’re having meetings about this job description. They’re discussing it. They’re telling OP “hey, daughter wants to do this, so give her the job already.”

      1. SignalLost*

        The fact they’re taking those steps is a really good indicator as to why the company has been around as long as it apparently has.

        1. Lance*

          Yeah, there’s something to be said for them going to OP to work on this, rather than shoving her into the position and saying ‘make it work’.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I think Temperance’s point is that the daughter likely would not have secured the internship if it were not a family-owned company.

        1. Micklak*

          I think that’s pretty relevant. If the daughter is interested in marketing it would make sense to be getting a marketing degree, but we don’t hear anything about that.

          In reference to the LW’s concern, I think it’s valid. Unless the daughter decides that marketing isn’t for her, she will take over the LW job at some point. It’s not an immediate threat but it could happen.

          If the LW is in charge of marketing she should be working hard to build more business now so there is enough work for both of them, or start developing her exit plan.

          1. Lavender Menace*

            There are lots of people who work in marketing without a marketing degree, though. It’s pretty common for new college hires not to have an exact major in a specific area they work in and to learn on the job.

      3. Smithy*

        I agree with this. It may also be a way for the company to flag some of their own transparency issues around the nature of what “family business” will mean for them in practice.

        For all we know the family’s ultimate ambition for the daughter may be the COO role. But after years. It may be that if she’s post undergrad – that this is what she’s going to do for 2-3 years before getting an MBA. There are all sorts of trajectories that while nepotism also aren’t necessarily shoddy business practices. And if the OP has been happy to be there for 16 years, may well get a lot more clarity in how they plan to approach the daughter joining the company.

        1. Artemesia*

          It would be less concerning if the plan was to rotate her through several departments to get experience. That is a pretty common executive track training. That is not what they are doing though.

      4. AnnaBananna*

        I would agree with you, but that would only be an accurate statement if it was between the COO and his daughter. The fact that LW and HR have to get involved in this little ‘learning opportunity’ means it’s far greater than a ‘learning opportunity’.

    3. Elizabeth*

      I agree. I know OP said she is very smart and eager to learn, so that’s good.

      But…literally no one else gets to walk in and write their own job description. I know, like someone else said, that they are having meetings to discuss this and such. Even so, though, it’s pretty far outside the scope of what regular job candidates get to do.

      If this girl really didn’t want to rest on her family name, she would ask where she was most needed and then start learning as much as she can from the bottom up. I’m not too impressed with her.

      1. EA in CA*

        I actually did just that. I was hired under the title of Executive Assistant, the first one ever hired for at this company. They had no clue what to do with me, just knew that they needed administrative help for the executive tine. Their job description was literally copy and pasted off the internet (the URL was still included at the bottom of the page). So when I started, my boss told me that what ever task I felt I wanted to take on or what I thought was required by this role to handle, just add it to my job description and we will go with when I put down.

        1. Temperance*

          That’s a little different, though. You were hired as an EA, not to get your dream job.

          I just updated my job description, too, with input from my boss. I added some things that I want to do, some things that I am doing, etc.

          1. solar flare*

            uhhhh… i’m an executive assistant and it is my dream job. that may not be the case for EA in CA, but they’re not mutually exclusive?

            1. Temperance*

              My point was that EA in CA was hired *to be an EA*, not to create her dream job description from scratch. I’m glad you enjoy your job, but it’s really not comparable for someone to start a job with a loosely defined role and figure out what that means and for someone to create their own job description with desired activities and roles.

            1. StlBlues*

              I don’t think Temperance was implying that an EA can’t be a dream job. I think it was more along the lines of… the EA was free to define her role in the context of being an EA. They weren’t hired and told to pick whatever their dreams aligned to. To be hyperbolic in defining a “dream”, it would be if the EA decided that they wanted to (1) be the systems analyst, (2) run all the marketing programs and (3) determine payroll. They would never do that because they know *basically* the realm of an EA – and defined their job accordingly. The intern was given carte blanche, which I think is the issue.

        2. iglwif*

          I more or less did that, too. CurrentEmployer has never had a dedicated marketing person before, and now we do, so one of my first tasks was to start figuring out what all my job was going to involve! (I also work in a family-owned business, technically, but the only 2 family members involved are the big bosses, who are married to each other.)

          That said, (a) I’m not an intern, I’m in my 40s and have been working in this industry for 20+ years; and (b) it was understood from the beginning that my boss would be reviewing and approving and, if appropriate, changing things.

          IOW I don’t think the situation OP describes is *outrageous* but I do think it requires clarification!

        3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          This isn’t quite analogous, because there was a job for you and it had some commonly known parameters. In this case, someone is interested in marketing writ large and is getting to design a specialized job description by virtue of their familial relationship. That’s very different than helping your employer redraft your job description so that it matches your workload.

      2. Le’Veon Bell is right*

        Eh, I mean, in a perfect world, this would be what everyone gets to do. It sucks that that’s not the case for most people, but I don’t think that that alone is reason to not allow her to do it, especially when it seems to match up with what they want for her and for the business.

        As for your last paragraph… I disagree. I don’t think she should feel obligated to just take any job because it’s needed. She’s allowed to have, like, hopes and dreams and a career path she’d prefer to pursue. And there’s no indication that she’s not interested in starting from the bottom and learning as much as she can. She’s an intern! And she was asked to outline her dream job. And now OP has been brought in to consult, which makes sense, as this woman outlined a marketing job and OP is in marketing for the company.

        1. Myrin*

          Yeah, I’m a bit confused by all the “she gets to write her own job description!!” when, as of now, that whole job description is entirely hypothetical.

          From the letter, it sounds like COO has said something like “Daughter, what is it that you’re interested in in this fine company? How about you write your ideal job description?” and daughter looked for guidance in descriptions of jobs which already exist in the company, with OP’s job being the one most closely overlapping with her own ideal.

          However, it doesn’t sound at all like this job description is hewn in stone or definitely, 100% what the daugther will be doing in the future. OP has a lot of power here – she’s set to “meet with the daughter soon to provide feedback on the job description”, so she can discuss some of her concerns with daugther herself, even. Admittedly, they’re apparently set on granting the daugther’s wishes insofar as they want to
          “discuss how to transition [her] into a full-time marketing role within the organization”, not “if” or “whether”, but it still sounds like OP can influence a whole lot about this whole process.

      3. HarvestKaleSlaw*

        Agree with Elizabeth – this is backwards. Most work places start with a need and fill it – not start with an employee and find things for them to do. Most of us working stiffs don’t start with a job and then decide what we think would be a fun way to pass the time while we’re there.

        My experience with family businesses (and I’ve seen a few) is that the third generation is where things go off the rails. It doesn’t mean the third-gen kids are bad people, or dumb, or lazy — they can be very smart and ambitious and hardworking. It’s more just a problem of never really being exposed to risk or hardship – when you are always working with a soft and cushy net underneath you, it creates a profoundly different worldview.

        1. TardyTardis*

          This reminds me of the job I had for a short while for an office undergoing financial difficulties; when I was let go (because above) the daughter was kept. I said nothing, this is a small town, but knowing the daughter and her capabilities, I was not really surprised when the office went under the next year.

      1. ACDC*

        Absolutely. I’m sure there’s examples out there of family-owned businesses not performing these sorts of injustices, but I believe that is the exception and not the rule.

        Anecdote: my first job out of college I was working as a sales manager, the boss’s 17 year old daughter (not a typo, and yes, she was still in high school) started working at the business. After a few weeks, she decided she liked my job better than her job. So I was told by boss that my position was going to become part time, and basically my schedule would be the hours daughter was in school, so that she could do my job after school and on weekends. My job got poached my a high school junior, but it was a blessing in disguise, because I left pretty soon after that and got a much more fulfilling role.

          1. Starbuck*

            It seems pretty apt for what ACDC is describing. The boss could have set up a mentorship/apprentice role at least to have the daughter learn from them, but instead they just pushed them right out. I don’t think it’s wrong for a family business to preferentially hire family members, but taking away a role from an already hired non-family employee who’s got the skills and experience to do the job and giving it to someone who has neither is definitely unjust. Also really poor business planning.

          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Let’s not nitpick! The word is apt, and the word choice depends on ACDC’s subjective view of what happened (which admittedly sounds awful).

            1. BF50*

              I agree that ACDC’s experience sounds awful. I was reacting to the general tone of villainizing the granddaughter and family owned businesses in general.

              It also just hasn’t been my experience with the family owned businesses I have encountered.

              1. Temperance*

                I think that ACDC is allowed to be salty when she more or less lost her job to a kid because the kid was a relative and wanted it. I mean, I get it, if I had that kind of privilege, I’d probably exercise it, too, but it’s not a great thing to do and really sucked for ACDC.

      2. Rainy*

        I encountered someone a while back who slouched his way through university on the expectation of receiving a job in his dad’s company, only to be told that if he’d wanted a job in the family business he should have majored in something relevant and actually worked hard, gotten good grades, and sought internships to make him useful in the business.

        I have just huge amounts of respect for that dad, honestly.

            1. Temperance*

              This is fair criticism. I was reacting to the “she wants to earn it” piece from the letter. I definitely don’t want to discourage OP further!

            1. fposte*

              Shade is being thrown at her for taking a job in a family business, and there’s no reason for that. It gets a little “bootstraps!” to intimate that she’s lesser for doing so.

              1. Temperance*

                I was reacting to the part of the letter about her working for it and not taking advantage of her family connections, when that’s what she did. I don’t think it makes her a bad person, nor did I say so, but there’s an inherent advantage here that I don’t think we should ignore.

                1. aebhel*

                  This. She sounds like she wants to work hard and succeed; she’s also undeniably leaning on her family connections. That doesn’t make her evil, but it’s kinda disingenuous to pretend that she’s working her way up the same way anyone does in their first job. She has the good luck of useful family connections.

                2. fposte*

                  I definitely agree she has an advantage; I just think sometimes we’re overly hard on people who have advantages.

                3. bonkerballs*

                  Why should we not ignore it? What purpose does it serve other than to throw shade at someone you don’t know? OP knows the situation far better than we do – she says this woman is hardworking and not content to rest on her name. So we should believe her and move on.

                4. Temperance*

                  @bonkerballs: because it’s extremely relevant to OP’s issue at hand here. It’s not as if someone random, unconnected intern was given the opportunity. You need to be very cognizant of the family connection when navigating situations relating to a family business.

              2. Aveline*

                Yes. Amen.

                Let’s also not forget that either daughter finds a way in or son will be the one with the keys to the kingdom. That’s not fair to daughter.

                Why is no knee picking up on the possibility of a gendered dynamic between the siblings here?

                The reason this is relevant and not a derail is that it helps OP with framing. Maybe daughter isn’t trying to push OP out, but to find a way in so that brother doesn’t end up with everything and she gets nothing. Or she just gets the scraps brother grows her way.

                Succession planning in family businesses is complex.

                OP should not assume daughter is out to get her job. It’s more likely daughter is out to protect her share of a family business. One should not assume bad intent when other options are as likely.

                1. Starbuck*

                  There is no brother mentioned in the letter- the CEO’s son, the COO, is Intern Daughter’s father, as far as I can tell. It’s not a gender thing, but a generation thing, which makes perfect sense- COO likely has been with the company for many years already, while daughter is presumably young and with little work experience.

                2. OBMS*

                  I think you misread the post. The COO is the son of the CEO. The daughter in question is the daughter of the COO and the granddaughter of the CEO. So there is no gendered dynamic. It is a generation dynamic. (father and daughter, not brother and sister)

              3. Starbuck*

                Well, by “taking a job” do you mean getting an already open position without competition? Because I agree there’s nothing wrong with that in a family business. Not that there was actually any open position for her to get, by the sound of OP’s letter…

                But if by “taking a job” you mean taking duties away from someone who already has that role and the skills to do it… yeah that’s a crappy thing to do – but the real crappiness would be in the management that allows that.

    4. epi*

      I don’t think this is fair. The letter also says that the plan is for the OP to give the daughter feedback on the job description. It doesn’t necessarily sound like she got to just write her own wish list that the OP must now fulfill. Alison is correct that the OP should find out how much they really can or should alter the job description, and what the owners’ priorities are for training the daughter.

      There’s nothing nefarious about the OP’s boss, or a brand new intern with no experience in the field, not knowing exactly how much staff the OP’s work can support, or what tasks are a big ask for a new person. The measure of the owners and the daughter is really how they respond to OP’s concerns.

      1. serenity*

        And while this daughter has experience and talent in writing (for her own blog, not the type of business writing we do here), she does not have any of the other design or software skills needed to succeed in our line of work.

        This is a big barrier to the daughter waltzing into this kind of role and succeeding. If OP is assessing the daughter’s experience, knowledge, and skill set in good faith (which I assume she is) any business – even a family business – would do well to keep this in mind.

    5. CRM*

      I disagree that she is just pretending to want to work. While it’s true that her connections are certainly helping her out, it sounds like OP actually has experience working with her (via the fact that she is interning at the business) and can vouch for her worth ethic.

      1. Temperance*

        I didn’t say that she was “pretending to want to work”, I pointed out that she’s *not* earning her position, but has gotten a leg up through nepotism. She could be genuinely wonderful and talented, and have a good work ethic, but she doesn’t have the training in relevant programs.

          1. Nox*

            Yeah, I think temp might need to take break. They said this in the very first comment of the posting and must of forgot.

    6. Kaaaaren*

      AGREED. The internship thing is nice and all – and more than some people would do in similar circumstances – but yeah, her goal seems to be to demand a job to her exact specifications, without putting in more than an internship’s worth of work to prepare for it. And frankly, to me, it DOES sound like wants to take the OP’s job.

  2. Loopy*

    I don’t blame the OP for being nervous about this. Just the fact that she’s writing her own job description (!!!) Points to at least a little bit of nepotism/favoritism. Thats really not normal and would have my Spidey senses tingling. I’d definitely want to have a very candid conversation about how it would work and would be feeling a bit jittery.

  3. Hey Karma, Over here.*

    OP, you have a really clear view of what is happening and what could happen. You are being fair and honest in your assessment of yourself and others. I hope the company offers you the same and everything works out well for you.

    PS: I see why you are in communications!

      1. Original Poster*

        Thank you all for the kind words! Sometimes corporate communications is about “writing into the void”, wherein I don’t get a lot of feedback on what I’ve written. I appreciate knowing that some folks in this thoughtful community understand what I’m trying to say.

        1. Purplestar*

          I am late to the conversation. But I would advise that you proceed with caution. I just left a job where the writing was on the wall. Marketing Manager for a start up. Built the programs, ramped up social media, developed contacts, etc. etc. The Director of Sales was heavily pushing his just out of college daughter on the COO. Offering her up to check our social media, responding to inter office emails with “well my daughter suggests”. When he paid for her to go to a trade show with him and the COO I new it was just a matter time. I secured another position and within the week she was appointed Director of Sales Marketing.

          The daughter is not able to do your job now. But if she comes aboard in a marketing role you will, most likely, be expected to teach her. Which means teach her how to do your job. If you have a good reputation and connections – it may be time to put out feelers.

          1. Jasnah*

            Exactly. The way I see this playing out, daughter writes her dream job description, COO looks at it and asks OP for feedback, OKs it and sets daughter as intern beneath OP. Daughter begins to take over the enjoyable/easy parts of OP’s job. OP is left with less and less to do until OP moves on, and then daughter steps in ready to hit the ground running after being trained by OP. I’d tread carefully here.

            1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

              Ok. But this could happen with anyone — a different intern, not family, etc. It happened to my husband and he was definitely not working at a family company (he trained his “replacement” even though she was not initially supposed to replace him).

          2. Kaaaaren*

            I also work in communications and this is… a common thing that happens. I think there is this perception that anyone who can speak English fluently (in the U.S. anyway) is a communications expert — or one in the making, anyway.

    1. Thursday Next*

      Absolutely–OP, you represent your situation and yourself evenhandedly and persuasively. From your letter, I believe you’re an asset to your organization, and hope your company will work with you to carve out a reasonable role for the intern while retaining you in your areas of expertise.

      I think Alison’s script could be quite useful to you, since it sounds like your workplace and your relationship with your boss function relatively well.

      I’m rooting for you!

    2. Artemesia*

      This and I believe she cannot be too pessimistic about the likely future there for herself. That is why I think she should be job searching — not in a panic or a rush but with the knowledge that eventually she may be forced out or have her job drastically altered in ways she is not comfortable with. She need not be in a rush but she should be searching for a good opportunity and should take it if she finds it. Let the COO and his darling daughter deal with the gap she leaves.

      1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

        I think that this comment judges the daughter unfairly. It’s dismissive in how it talks about her and seems to imply she has absolutely no qualities other than being “Daddy’s little girl” and we don’t actually see that in the letter.

  4. Jules the 3rd*

    Keep in mind that the daughter is unlikely to stay with this position long-term. She’s most likely going to move around multiple areas in the company with the end goal of COO. So you may want to look at this as ‘training your future boss and strategic direction developer’ more than as training your replacement.

    1. Juli G.*

      I think this is a good point. If they are looking at her as the next generation, then they might want her to take some of your overflow as well as other duties outside your space.

    2. Psyche*

      If possible it might be a good idea to talk to her about her career goals. If what she wants is to learn multiple areas, then it might make more sense to create a hybrid position between departments so that everyone has enough to do. If her goal is marketing, well then the OP knows and can plan accordingly.

      1. solar flare*

        ^ this! i love the hybrid position idea – it doesn’t stop her from doing whatever she wants, but it does keep your position from becoming redundant (and would be better overall for someone with upper management goals)

    3. BF50*

      This is exactly what I wanted to say, but couldn’t clarify in my mind. If the daughter does stay in marketing, it might mean several years before she has enough training and experience to take on the OP’s role completely, but realistically, they aren’t looking for the third generation to be head of marketing. They are looking for her to be number 2 in command. So train her and then move her down the line.

      They might also be open to the idea of the OP taking on more work that is outside of her current area, if that would be of interest.

      That’s not to say that the OP should not consider leaving. I imagine there are major changes coming to this organization over the next several years as the leadership changes to incorporate her. Some maybe good and some terrible. It’s too early to say. I think, though that if OP decides to leave, she has time to be really picky. If they do this right, it should be a slow transition.

      1. Smithy*

        Completely agree. I have a friend comes from a “family business” where her youngest sister appears to be named to become the ultimate successor.

        While I know there’s a development plan in place for her (that includes going back to school after a few years to get an MBA), I don’t know how it’s been communicated to the rest of staff. Regardless, while everyone knows the plan is for her to ultimately take over – she’s also definitely not doing it tomorrow.

        The change may ultimately signal other reasons to leave – but I agree that none of these changes are likely to come quickly if the company exhibits other good management signs.

  5. Monty & Millie's Mom*

    I have nothing to add, just want to wish you luck here, OP! And I’d love an update when you get some resolution on this one. I’m really hoping for a good resolution for you, not only for you personally, but to see a positive example of a family-owned business!

  6. RT*

    I’m curious as to how old she is and if she has outside experience beyond her own blog. It’s possible that if she is just out of college, her family will inject a little reality into the situation. I worry that her family may be willing to give her more leeway if she were older with experience in a different field with the thought that she will ‘just pick things up’.

    1. AMPG*

      I’m also wondering how old she is. With an 87-year-old founder, the granddaughter could easily be in her late 20’s or early 30’s. That could mean that she really is preparing to push out the OP.

      1. BF50*

        There is a huge range. If grandad and dad had babies at 25, which is actually not that early, especially in 1968, the daughter would be 37. On the other side, my husband was 40 when we had our first baby and his dad was 39 when he had my husband. That is a bit unusual, but with that math, she’d be 8.

        My daughter is actually 6. If my father in law were still alive, he would be 85.

      2. Miss Wels*

        Yeah it’s hard to tell. My great-grandmother is 89, my grandmother is 66, my mother is 46, and I turn 26 soon. But on the flip-side, my mother has a 16-year-old first cousin who’s grandmother is my same great-grandmother. Generations are interesting that way.

      3. Bee*

        Yeah, it’s really hard to tell – when my grandmother died at 88, I was a 21-year-old senior in college, and my cousins ranged in age from 13 to 30. So who really knows!

      4. Original Poster*

        Hi, Original Poster here! Just to provide a little more context, the daughter is in her late 20s. She has no formal experience with marketing, and little writing experience outside of her blog. She’s spent much of her 20s travelling the world, or working at a non-profit where her mom is on the Board.
        I think it’s fair to say that my boss, and other elements of leadership within the organization are committed to doing this the “right way.” There have been conversations about making sure the daughter isn’t just handed anything. But I know that will be challenging for a family business to execute well…even if the daughter is well-intentioned, I worry that her father and grandfather will see certain tasks assigned as too low-level…things like making gift bags, researching contact info for marketing campaigns, etc, that simply come with being part of a tiny marketing team. My concern is less that the daughter is trying to skip ahead in line than that her family will give her the plummier parts of the role (writing, design) before she’s ready for them, skills-wise, and that I’ll be pushed out in the process…or demoted to such a point that I no longer want to be here.
        Thank you all for the opinions and feedback–you’ve given me a lot to consider as I forge ahead into some unchartered waters!

        1. AMPG*

          This is very useful info. I think the problem is the inherent tension between the organizational leadership wanting to do things “the right way” but bringing in a family member who “spent much of her 20s travelling the world, or working at a non-profit where her mom is on the Board.” It’s entirely possible that this person doesn’t have a well-developed understanding of business norms, and now she’ll be your problem. It sounds like you’re going into this with your eyes open, which is probably all you can do, but I do hope it all works out in your favor.

        2. valentine*

          OP, they are handing her a job and, worse, squeezing her into your team. She doesn’t have to throw her name around because she gets to help dad and granddad pave the way for her. If there isn’t enough work overall the family’s willing for her to do and she’s meant to gain all the knowledge and experience she needs in this role they’ve made for her, either your job shifts to trainer or someone else gets pushed out.

  7. SignalLost*

    I will say, I don’t disagree with Alison’s take on the two likely outcomes, but a third possibility to work in is whether there is scope to expand the overall work of the marketing department, and that might be key to mention in your initial query – just “are there plans to expand our work so that it makes sense to add a second person?” I just accepted a comms role for an org that has been lax about who does what, and there’s a clear understanding that the graphic design work the precious person didn’t do is coming back to my role (which is good because it’s my favourite part). So I would present that as a possible third option in your question, especially as it sounds like it will take a fair chunk of time to get Jane up to speed, and her dad may be thinking two or three years out, especially since the odds that his father will still have a significant role in the company at 90 are not great, compared to the odds for a man in his 50s.

    1. Lawgurl06*

      This is a great point! In many jobs there are ways to expand current projects or take on other work that isn’t in a job description currently because there aren’t enough resources to take them on. I work for a small, family-owned business and could easily add so many projects to my one-woman, HR department if someone else wanted in. There is a lot of reach and areas that I currently don’t do much with because I don’t really have the time and ability in a one-woman show to do them, but they are out there and would surely add value to the company if someone had the time to work on them.

    2. lilennox*

      Agree! If the company likes the OP and wants to retain her, and they’re also determined to bring this young woman on board, maybe there’s an opportunity here to expand – one possibility would be to rework the new job description AND the OP’s job description in ways that get the younger team member exposure and skill-building opportunities, but also increase the overall amount of communications and marketing activities going on (and also clearly articulate the benefits to the company of this increased activity). At most organizations this strategic thinking would occur in advance of actually hiring a second person, but if the CEO/COO just want to create a job for the young person in her preferred field (and aren’t necessarily just considering the bottom line), this could be a big opportunity for the OP to increase her own level of responsibility (now she’s a supervisor/director!) and maybe offload some of her less interesting work to her new team member.

  8. Viki*

    Also how old is the daughter? Is she a recent grade and young? Presumably as an intern she’s young and still learning. I highly doubt she’s poaching your job-but all of this needs to be cleared by your boss. That’s how you solve the problem or get more information.

  9. Czhorat*

    That she wrote her own job description as an opening is a clear sign that, as a family member, she is getting special treatment. That may not mean that she gets her “dream job” and that you can’t push back on the more problematic aspects of her request.

    What I WOULD guess is that if she DOES want your job – or at least those parts of it – she’ll eventually get them. Perhaps not today or tomorrow, but in a few months or years when she’s deemed ready for them.

    1. Dragoning*

      OP has 16 years of experience. I suspect if the company is any decent–and they sound that way–she’s not going to be deemed “ready” in a matter of months, or even a “few years”

      1. Czhorat*

        That’s fair, but it will likely happen if that’s what the daughter wants. Even if she’s not ready to take OP’s job in its entirety, I can see one or two key responsibilities being transferred as the months and years pass.

        I can also see her moving to different areas, as others have discussed. What we all DO need to remember is that her name is the same as the one on the letterhead; even if the employer does try to be fair, it isn’t a level playing field.

    2. ACDC*

      Agreed. I don’t think the “takeover” would happen anywhere close to immediately, but I believe it will happen slowly over an agonizing extended period of time based on things I’ve seen myself.

  10. Lexi Kate*

    She is not going to take your job next week or next month, but she is most likely going to if that is the position she wants. That said because this is a small family run company and not a large conglomerate and absolutely depending on how instrumental you are and how good she is there may be room for you in your job and you may not have an issue. I would keep my resume ready and watch for any great jobs that you would like to leave for anyway. I wouldn’t send out 50 resumes tomorrow, but I would keep watch of what is out there and not make any large purchases until you see how this is playing out. I will say if her grandfather is CEO and her father is leaving his COO job to be CEO in the near future I would think unless she has another sibling working there already that your job will just be a milestone to get her to COO when her dad moves up. In that case it would make sense to keep both of you in the same position since they plan on her moving up quickly.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      I wouldn’t assume they plan on moving her up quickly, though. She sounds pretty young and inexperienced. I’m guessing not much past college age, although I’m probably swayed by the fact that she’s currently an “intern.”

      1. Lexi Kate*

        I would assume that too and wouldn’t think this would happen in a year. It would be great to know if she has siblings or if dad has siblings that are in the company. If they werent such a small company and didn’t already have gramps as CEO, and Dad as COO I would agree completely, but with that dynamic I wouldn’t say its off the table when grandpa retires.

      2. Artemesia*

        She has goofed off for years and is now being presented a silver platter. I would not be confident in the management doing anything that didn’t appeal to the granddaughter and certainly they aren’t likely to give a rip about the OP’s job satisfaction.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          She has goofed off for years

          Where do you see this in the letter? The LW actually described her as hard-working.

          1. Indigo a la mode*

            The OP commented to say that the intern is in her late 20s and spent the last few years traveling the world and working for a nonprofit where her mother serves on the board. I assume that’s what Artemesia is referring to, but I do think saying she’s goofed off for years is reading between the lines too much and an unfair assumption. Plenty of people travel in their 20s before settling down to the grind, and many of us got where we are now at least partially thanks to people we knew.

              1. Frankie*

                I mean some 20-somethings travel with their parents’ credit card, but plenty go on a shoestring on their own savings, or live and work abroad by teaching, farming, etc. Depends on what is meant by “traveling.”

              2. SimonTheGreyWarden*

                Eh. I had traveled to Europe 8 times before I turned 30. My parents paid for none of them (my college scholarships paid for one as it was a class). The rest I paid for by working three jobs and taking on side work, living in a shitty apartment with too many other people, and eating rice. I wanted to travel. I did not want to settle. Now I’m in my late 30s, working a job I got because the people we grew up next door to are friends with the woman who used to be a dean here, and so when I mentioned looking for teaching work I was able to get a connection. By your and Artemisia’s metrics I goofed off a lot, but I can tell you it was all strategic and I worked my ass off for each and every opportunity. I got lucky in several cases, yes. But life is all about balancing our unearned advantages so they don’t harm others.

          2. Artemesia*

            She is in her late 20s and spent her post college years traveling and blogging; this is the definition of goofing off. And nice work if you can get it.

        2. Hills to Die on*

          She travels and writes a blog as a hobby. Maybe she’s ready to work now but she was goofing off earlier.

          1. Lavender Menace*

            Traveling and writing a blog aren’t necessarily “goofing off.” It entirely depends on what she was doing when she was traveling and how serious the blog was. I mean, we’re all on a blog right now, and there are many bloggers who make money from their work. Even some bloggers who don’t are still serious about their craft and learn valuable skills by doing it.

            Traveling could involve a lot of things – I have some former classmates and colleagues who traveled shortly after college; many of them interned, conducted research, and/or held various short-term internships or teaching positions. They did these things because they wanted to travel, but they certainly weren’t “goofing off,” and the traveling also taught them valuable things. Not going straight into a typical 9-5 office career right after college isn’t necessarily “goofing off.”

            I think there’s some bias against this young woman because of the opportunities she’s got – because her family owns a business and presumably had the wealth to allow her to travel (maybe unencumbered, maybe not) and write, people are making some assumptions about her work ethic – when even the OP has said that her sense is that she’s a hard worker and not one to blatantly use her family name to get ahead.

            1. Turtle Candle*

              Yeah, it strikes me as… interesting… and not very helpful that a number of people are looking at the LW’s letter, which describes the daughter as smart, hardworking, someone the LW respects and likes, and are going “probably not tho?”–based on her (presumably) coming from money and having a business-owner grandparent. Does she have advantages that some/many other people don’t? Probably, yes. But that doesn’t inherently mean that she’s not smart, or a hard worker, or etc.

              I mean, she might be entitled, or trying to shove LW out, or something else bad. But I don’t think there’s necessarily any evidence to that effect, certainly not enough to poison that particular well, and going into it with a more positive mindset IME makes these conversations go much, much more smoothly.

  11. EA in CA*

    As Alison said, this could be just her dream job, what she envisions herself doing. It could also be that she has no clue what different aspects of a marketing and communications role could look like and has developed a job description based on the only source/example she has, yours. Many people do not know where to start when crafting job descriptions. A lot of what is on the internet can vary depending on how a company or region defines a particular title. If you have accurately described her as not wanting to rely on family name to get to the role she envisions, I believe that your reasoning about why she isn’t able to take on some of the aspects due to lack in skill and experience will resonate positively with her.

    1. Person of Interest*

      I agree – I wouldn’t approach this as trying to convince your boss to not let the daughter push you out, but discuss it with your boss as: “Daughter currently has the skill set and experience of an associate/manager position, where she could report to me (director-level) and learn the ropes; (and maybe explain there is really only enough workload for this to be PT). Here is a revised job description that I feel would be appropriate for her and would allow her to be successful at learning the job.” Then down the road you can see of the department expands, or she decides to move on, or you want to move on, or whatever. I wouldn’t approach it from the perspective of being a threat to your job, unless there’s some harder evidence beyond Daughter’s dream job description that she wrote herself.

    2. Le’Veon Bell is right*

      Totally agree. Plus, if she’s new to the org, she might not have any idea how much marketing work actually needs to be done. It can be really hard to intuit that kind of thing from the outside, without experience in the particular field!

    3. LDP*

      I worked in marketing for a small family business that became a large international company over the course of about 30 years, and it could definitely be a combination of the daughter writing up her dream job description and her grandfather and father not knowing anything about marketing and just telling the people below them to handle it. Marketing can easily be seen as the “fun stuff” that you don’t really need specialized skills to do.
      OP, have you ever had conversations with anyone above your boss about marketing? I know at the company I worked for previously, the President (who was the company founder’s best friend from grade school) asked my boss when we were going to be done with this “Google SEO paid search stuff”. He treated a lot of marketing like it was just a passing trend, so it may help you figure out how to plan if you know their general attitude toward social media or email marketing or things like that.

  12. Lindsay gee*

    I’m taking your evaluation of Jane at your word that she doesn’t throw her last name around to get ahead in the company. So this comment isn’t to suggest you should question everything she does, but her getting to basically join the company in her preferred department, writing her own job description etc. without actually consulting with anyone in the first place at best is just really bad planning and at worst is her actually using the power she has as a member of the family. I dunno, those pieces stood out to me as being very nepotism-y. MAybe like alison said it is innocent and the manager will curtail this and transition her into the company in a role that makes more sense, but….i dunno

    1. ACDC*

      Agreed. I don’t believe it’s possible to go into your family’s business and not experience any sort of special treatment or nepotism-like things, even if you have the intention to “make it on your own.” There’s just too many subconscious factors at play for nepotism to not creep in.

  13. Rusty Shackelford*

    The fact that they’re starting with “what does Jane want to do” instead of “what does Jane know how to do” is very telling, IMHO. It’s not necessarily an awful thing for them to do – if she’s got skill and talent, and she’s trainable and eager to learn, there’s no real reason for her not to start at a job she likes and grow into it. Except, of course, that you’ve already got that job.

    If your manager does make it clear that Jane’s job description is going to proceed as written, rather than hinting that it doesn’t make sense for you to hang around under those circumstances, I’d phrase it as “Is it your intention that I serve as a mentor/trainer for Jane until she’s ready to take over my job, and if so, what kind of timeline are you looking at?” I think “how long will you want me” is probably safer than “I’ll be working on my exit plan” under those circumstances.

    1. Psyche*

      I agree that “how long will you want me” is the best phrasing. It doesn’t lock the OP into following that timeline but it does let her know how urgently she should be looking for another job. Either way I think she should start job searching. Not necessarily applying to jobs, but just to make sure she knows that she has options.

  14. MissDisplaced*

    I think the OP is right to be nervous about this. I’ve seen first hand what happens in family run businesses. No matter how good you are at your job, you are not “family.”
    But with that being said, can you consider making the role both a sales and marketing role? Something along the lines of new business development. That might make more sense in the long run, without overlapping on your turf. It would also give her a chance to become more involved with existing sales staff and actual customers, contracts, in addition to many marketing functions.

  15. jm*

    OP, you know the company well. Is it possible there are areas under the general umbrella of communications/marketing/PR/even customer service that need more manpower, or areas that need to be expanded, that you could lead her to add to her job description?
    Or could she start a blog for the company (that could be tacked onto the company website and social media pages) with behind-the-scenes interviews, stories and photos/videos of work the company does, to increase customer engagement/awareness of the company?
    I’m just thinking you are in a position to know what the company does and doesn’t need, so maybe you can “help” her write a job description that truly meets the company’s needs, and fits with her skill set.

  16. Lisa Babs*

    OP I couldn’t tell from your letter if there was any work that would fill a full time marketing position without taking your job? Or if you are the only marketing person and there just isn’t enough work to go around?
    If there is enough work… then write that description. Change the title to a less senior title and make sure it’s tasks she could do (even if they’re less glamorous) and maybe even a task or two that you do that you don’t love. And explain that you took X and Y because she doesn’t have the ___ skills and added in A, B and C because they need to be done and would be a great fit for her skill set.
    BUT if there is not enough marketing work even with a different description I can totally see your anxiety. And you just have to follow Alison’s advice and see what’s going on.

    1. hambone*

      OP wrote:

      But quite frankly, there is not enough of our type of work for two of us in this organization. I am often stretched thin, but not so thin as to support another full-time employee in the team. And at this point in time, she does not have the skills that can support the role, though she does have an eagerness to learn.

      1. Lisa Babs*

        Ya but I couldn’t figure out if “our type of work” was the type of work OP does and was on the COOs daughter job description or was that ALL tasks that could fit under the marketing umbrella. Marketing and communications is a broad title and can have many aspects. But you are right that the statement not enough to support “full-time employee in the team” probably means there isn’t enough work to go around. BUT the phrase “in the team” makes me think there might have been a marketing team where she could take on multiple peoples tasks (even if that wasn’t what she ideally wanted to do) and maybe some new tasks not currently done. I was trying to see if there was a creative way to create a job description to make all parties happy. I was pretty sure there wasn’t but it never hurts to ask.

  17. Greg NY*

    It rarely ends well for non-family employees of family-owned and run businesses. It may not be not, but it will be eventual. All other things equal, it will always be desirable to have a family member rather than a non-family member in a given position. There are times where an outside perspective is useful, but those are the situations where not all things are equal. There’s no need to rush to begin a job search now (unless the conversation you have gives you information to the contrary), but if the COO’s daughter wants to do the same thing you’re currently doing now and there isn’t room for both of you, you’ll ultimately be the one pushed out. You may not be let go outright (especially if the daughter will receive equity rather than salary), but you will be marginalized. Since you genuinely love the work, getting paid but being pushed to the sidelines isn’t going to be good for you.

    1. Bea*

      I don’t know where you’re getting your statistics from. “It rarely ends well for non family members” is not true. There are too many variables to make such a sweeping generalisation about a huge portion of the businesses in the world.

        1. Lance*

          It’s probably another ‘this is what we hear about’ thing… because family businesses being a mess (as no doubt they are on several occasions, by people who don’t know how to run them and perhaps shouldn’t be running them) is what gets featured, is what’s ‘interesting’… while we don’t hear so much about the likely numerous amount that are actually run quite well.

      1. SheLooksFamiliar*

        Agreed. I used to work for a family-run business, didn’t know which of my co-workers were family members for the first year I was there. They were not given special treatment and didn’t act entitled.

        Also, I know many family businesses that are well-structured and well-run, with succession planning that includes non-family members.

        1. Turtle Candle*

          In point of fact, I worked for a company where family members basically did get special treatment (everyone knew that barring disaster, the son would functionally inherit it when his mother retired–she was very clearly, expressly training him for that)… and it ran just fine, made a lot of money, had a great atmosphere, and treated us (the non-family employees) extremely well. I mean, not if you wanted to be the CEO. But for the vast majority of us who don’t have any intention of going down that path, it was a good place to work.

          I think part of it is that this sort of thing is really, really normal in family-run businesses. Family members get positions they might not otherwise. It just happens that way a lot. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that the businesses are disasters waiting to happen. (If the unfairness is bothersome, that’s a good reason to not work for a family company that runs this way, though–because it’s unlikely to change in most cases. Some people just see their work as a legacy to leave their families, and that’s how it is.)

          1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

            This. I’ve worked for two family businesses in my life. One of those was related to me, though distantly, and I was never in any way going to take on the business/be involved beyond the summer internship I agreed to as a way to get to know my mom’s side of the family better. My great aunt owned her own company selling…… caramel cozies for chocolate teapots, and both of her sons and one granddaughter worked there as well. I was doing basic office gruntwork. The people who worked there had all worked for my aunt for years (some in her previous business as a housecleaner). I didn’t have the same last name but they all knew I was family, and also that I was not at all interested in moving to that specific city which was one of the few places with a market for said caramel cozies. There was dysfunction there, but it was more related to some run of the mill drama. The other company had been family owned, but there was a divorce and husband got part and wife/sons got part (I worked for wife and sons). There was a mix of “people who knew the family forever”, “people who Dad brought on and who weren’t as trusted,” “people who were from mom/sons’ church and were more trusted,” and “people we sort of brought on without any plan after Dad left and took some of the people who worked here.” I fell in that last category. My mom also worked there; she got the job because she used to volunteer at a certain nonprofit, and the leader of that group was BFFs with the mom-owner of the business, and recommended my mom. There was a lot of dysfunction at that job as well, though my mother and I worked in different areas and did not often overlap (and many people didn’t realize we were mother and daughter). However, the dysfunction again was less to do with the family dynamics and more to do with the weird pseudoreligious stuff.

      2. Frankie*

        Yeah, there’s a small family business in my extended family and my (few) cousins who have started to work there haven’t supplanted anyone. There’s a lot of loyalty to long-term employees and, although there’s politics like anywhere else, the assumption is decidedly not that a cousin could come in and take on a role that was already filled, just because they were interested, because the person already in that role, like, matters! And is already doing the job!

        Not saying that’s true or not in OP’s case, but I don’t think the generalization is helpful. Many smaller family businesses are really tightly-knit and bound to the community because they’ve been around for generations, and that influences hiring and development decisions more than family ties would.

    2. Undivided*

      Could you cite your sources for these sweeping generalisations you are among here? Because your argument seems all kinds of spurious, frankly, and based on some very odd assertions.

  18. AdminX2*

    What about presenting it as a 10 year plan? Say “this looks great if you take the next blah years to develop these skills and trainings?” Rather than a next month job, explain why it is a 10-15 year away job and what else needs to be fleshed in?

    1. Indigo a la mode*

      I agree. I think most successful business owners have the ability to look at this kind of job description and understand that she’s not there yet, and aim to train her in these skills for another few years to ensure she’s ready to take up the mantle.

      Plus, in my experience, many businesses grooming someone for a future executive role make a point of moving that person around the company so they truly understand how it all works. Marketing is a great place to interact with all the business sectors (I’m a marketing manager), but it’s not everything.

    2. Original Poster*

      This is actually what I’m proposing–but more like a 1 – 2 year plan than 10 (which I don’t think would fly). I have taken the Job Description she wrote and tweaked it to be more of a Job Plan…there are certain milestones to be covered in the next couple of years, and I’m adjusting her title to more reflective of an entry-level role on the team than a mid-to-senior-level one, as she originally proposed. I’ve shared the updates with HR and my boss, who are both supportive. But now the next step is to see what the daughter and her family think! I feel like the daughter is being careful not to step on toes–but her dad has already given her a lot of leeway with this role, so we will have to see what happens when the next layer of review happens.

  19. CupcakeCounter*

    She sounds rather young so there is a possibility that she will come in, learn some stuff from you, and then decide “Oh…that isn’t really what I was thinking” and try something else.
    Which is a nice gig if you can get it.
    Approaching your boss and trying to get an idea of what is going on is a good idea. If you don’t want to go down the “I’m concerned for my future here” path, simply say you reviewed her job description and have some training recommendations she should complete before starting in house training but would like some clarity on what exactly they want her to start doing since A) you don’t have the bandwidth to train her full time and B) even after training, her written job description won’t fill 40ish hours/week.
    In the meantime, if you have any low level busy work that you have to get done but usually gets pushed aside when you are busy have her start on that. Have her write up some social media content for you to review and approve. Bring her along to project meetings and shadow how the process moves. Maybe she will be awesome and they expand your whole department. Maybe she’ll fall in love with another part of the business she gets exposure to while doing something for you. Maybe in 3 or 4 years the company will start pushing you out. At this point you don’t know and they might not even know so continue being awesome at your job, give everyone the benefit of the doubt, and keep your eyes open.

  20. Bea*

    She may be looking to learn all the aspects of the job to eventually take your position but I’d be shocked if she were trying to push you out all together. It would be an awful idea to just swoop in without skills or knowledge and try to do it free hand. She will need you to introduce her to many things.

    I’m hoping the job description is just haphazardly tossed together as her wish list of sorts. Someone knew to business can easily make that mistake.

    This sounds like a well ran family business and they are doing well together. I say try to keep an open mind and open up with them about your concerns. Don’t jump ship just yet, give them the opportunity to explain their plans for the future.

  21. JSPA*

    OP, this is none of my business, but if this isn’t (perhaps) your first job, and if you’ve been there 16 years, are you, yourself, by any chance, within a decade (or so) of retirement?

    If so, could it be that the firm is happy paying extra for the next 10 years so that the daughter can learn from the best–you!–then transition smoothly into your role (only) when you’re ready to leave?

    Basically, this may be a testament to how impressed they are by you; not a ploy to push you out.

  22. bopper*

    I would include some of how it impacts the OP, but more about how it would affect the company if the tasks you do were not done or were not done effectively.

    I would write up a job description of which an entry level person could do and a plan that after 16 years, she can get to where you are (and you will retire)

  23. Dave*

    When speaking to your manager, it may be worth framing it as trying to avoid a conflict of interest on your end. Saying, you’re not comfortable assessing her job description or ability to do that job, because it affects your own job duties.

    It’s also hard to tell if she’s run this job description by her family, so it could be that if they knew, they would want to steer her away from overlapping job duties?

    1. Psyche*

      Instead of saying that she doesn’t want to evaluate the job description, she could point out the parts of her job that would be taken away and that it would not leave her with enough work for a full time position. If they are going to push her out, it will happen regardless of what the OP says. If they do not realize that there is not enough work for two full time positions, staying quiet will just ensure that they are unable to make an informed decision. The best coarse seems to be to be upfront about the problems both short and long term so that everyone is on the same page. If the OP is being pushed out, she can at least have a long time to find something new while training the daughter.

  24. Yikes Dude*

    If she’s really committed to making it on her own with just a little leg up, even if she ultimately will be groomed to take over the business, having her start as your assistant will benefit everyone, especially her. Answering phones, learning to schedule meetings and make contacts, sourcing vendors, working her way up to small assignments while taking advantage of training opportunities that you know will be approved will help her really learn the business before she gets inevitably fast-tracked.

    1. rubyrose*


      There is a car dealership here that was owned by a man with five daughters, no sons. Four of the daughters had no interest in the business. The fifth one, though, did. She started out washing cars and moved through all the various positions (except, maybe, mechanic). She did take it over and did a wonderful job. But she worked her way up the ladder, starting at the bottom, spending significant time in each and every position.

  25. Mae West*

    OP, Beware!
    Family always comes first.
    It’s a huge red flag that she’s picked and written her her own job description.
    Follow Alison’s advice, but begin to search for other opportunities.

  26. Statler von Waldorf*

    “will her last name trump my hard work?”

    I’m sorry, but in my experience, that’s a 100% guaranteed yes. I’ve worked for a couple of family businesses over the last twenty years, and that’s just the nature of the beast. Even in the best run of them, there are different rules if you have the right last name, and nothing you can do will ever change that.

  27. Tardigrade*

    Is it possible the current COO/future CEO will attempt to expand the business such that marketing and communications work will increase, or would even like to increase work in your area without expansion elsewhere? There might be plans you aren’t yet aware of that might require another FTE.

  28. Hiring Mgr*

    I would also wonder what the precedent is with other family members… When the COO started, did he work his way up from the bottom? What about the other siblings and kids, if any?

    I feel for the OP, since you’ve been doing this so long, and it sounds like one of the things you like the best about the job is the variety, so it makes sense you’re reluctant to give that up, no matter who might be encroaching.

  29. Llellayena*

    If the job description she wrote would fit better with years of experience behind her, maybe you can approach it as a long term goal. It’s possible (if not likely) that your role will expand over the next decade and need a second person or that you may start thinking of retirement. If you approach it as “to get to this level you would need to get *this* level of training which we are happy to provide. You may not be doing this exact work for the first year or two, we’d want you to be familiar with several different aspects of the company, but we can map out a multi year training plan to let you grow into the role.” As she goes through the training, SOME of your job can be used to train her and you’ll have a built in backup for when your job has one of its busy periods. And it would give the company (and you) freedom to expand and grow YOUR role as the company grows. Good luck.

  30. Owler*

    You are worried that there wouldn’t be enough work for the two of you, but I think it would be important to consider the business’s finances more than amount of work. A company with a financial cushion can support a granddaughter working less than fulltime as she (ideally) explores the various departments, starting with yours. You might feel more concerned if you felt that they were looking to supplant your salary with paying hers.

  31. Name Required*

    It sounds like you’re a solo department, OP. Daughter-stuff aside … do you want to move from being an individual contributor to a manager? What happens if she’s just not good at some of that important stuff she doesn’t yet know after moving into the role; are you “stuck” with her?

  32. AnotherKate*

    You say there’s not enough work for her to do marketing stuff full-time. I wonder if you might suggest a more hybrid role for her, where she performs certain marketing tasks when you’re stretched thin, but also has responsibilities in other departments? You could still protect the tasks you enjoy most while she gets more experience across the company, which would buy you a bit of time and who knows, maybe it would lead her to finding a previously untapped passion for finance or HR. It also seems like a kind of “jack of all trades” or rotating department function might be wise for the company’s succession planning anyway, if they want her to have some working knowledge of multiple departments.

    It still may mean you eventually will need to find a job elsewhere, but this way you show a good-faith desire to teach her (while simultaneously enforcing just how much knowledge you have/how much she still has to learn).

    1. CRM*

      I like this suggestion, not only for OP but also for the COO’s daughter. As a recent college grad who may not know a lot about her professional interests yet, it may be good for her to get experience in multiple areas.

  33. Recovering Journalist...*

    I can’t offer advice because every situation is different but this post reminds me of a situation that occurred at a former employer.
    I was one of two proofreaders for a community newspaper, both of us with the company since its launch. About a year or so in, a new writer was hired. Then within weeks another proofreader was hired — this new writer’s husband. Within a few more weeks, proofreader was promoted to editor — forcing out the editor who had been there since the beginning. The husband and wife team had schmoozed their way into the one and two positions on the editorial team and started changing everything around — to the paper’s detriment.
    OP, watch your back.

  34. Le’Veon Bell is seizing the means of production*

    In addition to the other great advice people have shared above, I would encourage OP to think expansively about their own role. It might be that the current slate of marketing activities is just the right amount of work for one busy person, but think of it this way: your company is basically saying that they’re interested in investing in an entire other person in this department, someone who is eager to learn and practice in this industry, and where OP is the natural person to manage, guide, and innovate on what that looks like at this company.

    What happens if, instead of evaluating this job description based purely on what this person wants to do, you view it as a challenge: “if we had an entire other person in this department, how would you grow our marketing strategy? What’s the next level? What aren’t we doing that we could be doing? What could we be doing more of? What could we be doing better? Is there a level of analytics we’re not doing? Market research we could be conducting? What does the next level of investment in social marketing look like? What if we expanded into events for marketing professionals, or professionals in the field where the company consults?”

    There’s reason to be skeptical, for sure, and things you should be doing low-key to protect yourself. But I think your’re getting enough of that here, OP. I think step 1 is viewing this as a huge opportunity to flex your creative and strategic muscles and bring your own game to the next level. And if you happen to be an excellent mentor for an up-and-comer in your field, one who might be a COO or CMO or something one day, that’s only going to reflect well on you.

  35. CM*

    I don’t get all the objections about nepotism. Who cares? It’s a family business. Nepotism in a family business should be expected.

    The daughter is going to stick around, whether the OP does or not. It’s HER family business. So I think the OP should help her as much as possible. If the CEO is 87, he’s not going to be around forever. The COO will take over and his position will be open. There’s room for the daughter to advance. So get on her good side (and the COO’s too) — train her, support her, and view her as a potential boss rather than as a threat.

  36. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    Have that chat with your boss – but be candid while being polite.

    Do remember, though, that blood is thicker than water.

  37. CRM*

    Even if this girl is actually trying to take OP’s role, a recent college grad is not going to be able to successfully step into the role of a 16-year veteran overnight. Not only does she have to develop the specific skills mentioned by OP, but she also probably has a lot to learn about working in a professional environment in general (including her writing: blog posts are a mile away from business proposals). At a minimum it will take a couple of years before she is even close to OP’s proficiency, most likely longer. And this is assuming that she wont change her mind and want to do something else, which is very possible! She wouldn’t be the first 22-year old to be indecisive about her career early-on.

    This gives OP plenty of time to figure out if they still have a place in the business (in this role or another role) or if it’s time to move on.

    1. CRM*

      I just re-read the letter, and realized that OP never formally states that she is a recent college grad. I only assumed as much based on the fact that she is interning and that she is inexperienced. Still, my advice stands that OP should keep an eye on the situation and follow Alison’s advice, but OP probably wont be out of a job immediately.

  38. Dot*

    No one is entitled to a job. Not even someone who’s been in their role for 16 years. Young people/new professionals get told this all the time. It’s just how life goes, and it’s how the job market is now. We all have to keep on our toes and remember it’s not the sole purpose of any company to provide you with a living.

    I’m actually surprised by the number of people who think the family business owners are doing something wrong by hiring this young woman. Even if they are grooming her to take over the OP’s job, that’s their call and not hers. People get laid off for all kinds of reasons. It sucks, but there isn’t really anything you can do about it.

    And if they’re not, she’s being awfully difficult regarding this new employee. It’s the kind of thing people write in here about all the time. “I just got a job and my new coworker, who has been at the company for x years, is hogging all the work, treating me with suspicion, and basically acting like I’m trying to take her job.”

  39. KitKat100000*

    I look at this completely differently! I see this as an opportunity for you to be a mentor, to provide guidance and to impart your wisdom. You have worked there for SIXTEEN YEARS!!! She only has six weeks under her belt. Her role and position can be to assist you and for you to teach her – don’t see this as a way for her to push you out, but as her wanting to learn from you. Again, you have sixteen years there – I can’t imagine any company tossing someone out for no experience.

    With regard to not having enough work, would it be possible for her to work with you part-time and for another department part-time? In being able to evaluate her job description, I think you have the opening to explain that there’s an opening for her to be able to learn about multiple areas of the business, not just marketing.

    Be positive, be a mentor, and all will turn out well!

  40. Been There, Done That!*

    Ugh, I’d be SUPER careful with this one. I had this happen to me under very similar circumstances as well. I worked for a small, family owned business, older man 70+ as the CEO. Me, the brand-new Marketing Associate learning the ropes from the CMO. Difference: CEO’s youngest daughter was pretty useless. She had a “not even remotely in demand in our area” university degree, and refused to move somewhere where the degree would actually do her any good. She was living in her (millionaire) parents basement with her boyfriend and their child. CEO Dad was pretty desperate to get her out of the house. So, he brought her into the company. I was to show her the ropes of my job, although it was couched differently from that, so that she could help out on days I was on vacation, etc. Long story short, I came back from my first week-long vacation to find myself jobless, and the CEO’s daughter in my office. And they lied about my performance, saying they’d had to fire me for doing a bad job, rather than admit the truth. Fortunately, they were bad liars and I got unemployment!

    Never again will I work for a “family” owned business, unless it’s my own family!

  41. Chatterby*

    Uh, why is she getting to write her own job description? And why aren’t you saying, “no, no, no, you were just an intern last week and have no practical experience in the field, you need to start out as low/mid-level job,” and then re-writing it for her?
    Unless the owner and her parent specifically said she could come up with a laundry list of demands you have to hand to her, you are giving her way too much power, and should treat the job description she came up with as an exercise. If you are supposed to be her boss, act like her boss. When you meet with her to discuss her job description, tell her it’s great because it shows her long term goals, but to get there, she needs to be in X role to get Y skills to start, and then move to Z. Show the whole path she needs to take to get to your job.
    You can also approach your own boss and discuss the various needs that need filling, to either cobble together a full time amount of work from various departments, or discuss how your department can take on new responsibilities and expand to accommodate a new person.
    As long as you can 1) Justify the lower role is to the daughter’s long-term benefit and 2) Show you are actually teaching her, instead of locking her out punitively or to save your own job, her parent should be ok with the choices you make, so long as they’re a reasonable person.
    She’s still likely to wind up in your job eventually, but you’ll have more time to find a new situation.

  42. Shawn*

    I would indeed proceed with caution. A friend of mine once trained a new guy who he thought had been hired to be an additional coworker on his team. Turns out he was hiring his replacement…his replacement who was hired on with less experience so they could pay him less money. Soon as the training was complete, they laid my friend off. It’s possible that she may just be looking up to you however if the job is almost identical and she’s the COO’s daughter? I’d just proceed with caution and be very clear when you have this conversation with your manager.

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