I can’t tell the boss his son is a dud

Dear Aunty B,

I work for a largish family-owned business, which has always been run very professionally until now with the founder at the helm and I have always reported to the founder.

However, my boss is now in his early 60s and he recently appointed his son as general manager, which in effect means I now report to the son.

I am a highly experienced executive in my 40s and must now report to a 27-year-old who has come out of uni and had a few years’ experience in a totally unrelated industry before spending the last year with us. We just thought he was being parked in a corner of the business, as he is pretty unimpressive and was actually off work a fair bit of last year with bad health.

The general manager is a new role and so in effect we all report to the GM. This hasn’t been officially stated, but obviously this is a move to train the son up to be CEO and take over the business from his father. While I have enormous respect for the founder of this business, his son doesn’t cut the mustard. And it has also taken the wind out of our sails. Obviously none of us are going to get that position and we are now reporting to someone none of us respect.

I have been passionate about this business for five years. Do I have to leave, as I can’t see myself telling the boss his son is not up to the task?

Next steps please,


Dear Next steps,

That’s tricky. You know it is surprising how many smart people lose all commonsense when it comes to their children.

In fact, does any parent really see their child in perspective? I know parents who think their kid is on a one-way journey to jail when they are merely bright, bored and are going to end up running the country. Others think their kids are designed to run the country while everyone knows they are heading for the mailroom.

The reality is this: I have known many people in your situation. The role of GM is probably the hardest role in an organisation to fill. Whether it is an incompetent family member or someone parachuted in from outside or an internal promotion, it often doesn’t work out for lots of reasons.  

The result? People do end up leaving if the CEO doesn’t come to their senses quick smart and face the fact that the GM is not working out. My advice? Give it a go. You obviously have huge respect for the founder. Make sure you continue to semi report to the CEO – he won’t chop off contact with you and he will want to use you guys to keep an eye on the progress of his son. Know that the CEO is testing his son and at some stage reality will take hold.

Meanwhile work hard to buoy up the others telling them to keep the faith. And look around the company for roles where he is best suited so you can talk about what a good job he is doing in those areas. Plant the seed and stay focused. Meanwhile start preparing your strategy for becoming CEO and for the company once you take over. Start to talk to the founder about this.

Be smart,

Your Aunty B


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