The Incompetent Nephew

28 Feb

Dear LetterBalm: I was recently hired as a copywriter for a small ad agency that signed a new client. We’re rolling out a new spring ad campaign, and we’ve gone into overdrive to do it. I had been out of work for eight months, so it’s good to be back in the saddle. I was told we’d be working long hours on the campaign – no complaints about that. What I did not expect was that I would be supervising another junior copywriter on another account, which entails re-writing most of his copy. He really doesn’t have sufficient skills to handle his job; I’m clearly picking up the slack for him. It turns out Jake is the boss’s nephew. I resent being put in this position, but I’m afraid I’ll lose my job if I complain. I can’t do his job without my job suffering. How do I handle this without ending up back on the bread line?

–Double Duty

Ms. L.B. thinks that allowing for a less-skilled colleague with connections goes far back into our human history. There was always one clumsy oaf who spooked the woolly mammoth and who couldn’t hit the broad side of the rock pile with his spear. Yet because he was the son of the Leader of the Cave, the rest of the hunting party covered for him. There’s not much you can do except continue to do your job well, contribute your best work for the team and build goodwill. And, continue to supervise the nephew. But if you decide to approach your boss, plan you script carefully because it’s a very risky strategy, and you had better have made yourself an indispensable employee. Try to sit with your boss in a private, unhurried moment and keep things brief and professional, never personal. You might say this:

Morgan, as you know, the team is working hard on the new Acme ad campaign, and we’re giving it our all. As the new member of the team here, I was pleased that you asked me to supervise Jake on the Widget account. We’re working well together – Jake’s a smart guy and a hard worker. But I’m finding that I’m redoing a lot of his work, to the point where I’m concerned that this is taking too much time from my responsibilities on Acme. Do you have any suggestions as to how I should handle this?

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2 Responses to “The Incompetent Nephew”

  1. Jeff 02/28/2013 at 6:51 pm #

    I might also suggest that as a proactive manager he offer the suggestion that another manager along side of him share the responsibility of ‘mentoring’ the guy. In this way perhaps the burden is shared and if any issues arise down the pike there’s another voice in the mix? Would you agree?

    • Advice LetterBalm 02/28/2013 at 10:59 pm #

      A terrific idea! Ms. L.B. particularly likes the use of a mentor — a calming influence in both practice and terminology.

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