My employee is the bosses wife. Help needed Urgently!

I am manager of a seasonal store. The position lasts approx, through the middle of November.

Here is the issue. One of my employees “Jane”, is married to my immediate supervisor. I am the highest level of command within the store, the boss has authority over several other stores in the area, but is not involved intimately in the day to day operations of the location. “Jane” currently consumes roughly a quarter of the available associate hours, a comparably large amount, rivaled only by myself (who doesn’t count as I’m salaried), and the assistant manager, who is full time by necessity. “Jane” is rude, grumpy, authoritarian, and increasingly outright insubordinate. On at least three occasions in the last week, she has effectively contradicted my requests for her to stop doing certain tasks, perform her assigned ones, or clock out on time. While she won’t discuss her concerns with me, (since i’m just a 28-year old “kid” who doesn’t have his “life invested” in the company) she does take every opportunity to undermine, backtalk, spy, and generally bad-mouth me to her husband and the other associates. If she disagrees with something I ask her to do as part of the day’s game plan, she’ll either refuse, call her husband to “get confirmation”, or perform the task with a terrible attitude. I have no issues with the other employees, whom get along well with myself and each other. They also find her to be intolerable, bossy, and know her to be a spy.

Company policy allows the hiring of immediate family for the temporary season, however, she is obviously the recipient of favoritism.

Talking to her is like addressing a brick wall. I’ve tried on several occasions already. Obviously, the boss simply advises me to “utilize her experience” and throws it back into my lap. I’ve also tried that, and it simply results in “Jane” becoming a little general and ordering everyone about, regardless of whatever other tasks i had assigned them to.

I’m dangerously close to racking the boat, and just sending her home next time she is blatantly insubordinate, but I’d like to keep my job for the next month or so as we can really use the money. Sticking it out, isn’t possible as she drags down the store morale to a point where nobody wants to work on shift with her.


Ah, you’re fucked.

A couple of ways to deal with it.

  1. Ignore her completely
  2. Call her on her bad behavior at every single instance
  3. Roundly mock her at any given opportunity-odd barnyard noises tend to be most effective
  4. Give boss ultimatum-her or you. Be prepared to lose your job if you invoke that one.

Nice how the husband has dumped his problem into your lap…

The only thing I can think of is to instruct the rest of the staff to ignore her entirely unless what she says/does is related to her actual task. If she’s just taking to the air, and getting no response, then hopefully she’ll cut it out (though I doubt it).

I really don’t have any other advice… just document (with witnesses?) all of her insubordination and then fire her once you feel you’ve documented enough?

Good luck!

Find another job. Seriously.

Don’t give her any tasks to do.

I guess I’d evaluate it first by CYA. If you had a full-time position and this situation were potentially interminable, your hand would be forced. In that case, I’d think about leap-frogging your supervisor in the chain of command, once you’ve clearly given him the opportunity to rectify it. After all, it wouldn’t look good to the higher-ups if the bottom line suffers and you know the blame would run downhill do you.

But this isn’t a full-time position for you. Next question: is it likely to be a recurring seasonal position? I.e. if you burn a bridge this year, will you regret it when this season rolls around next year?

If so, is it worth fighting this battle now? If you desire the job next season and have good reason to believe she would be back, then what? If offered the job next year, would you stipulate that you won’t work with her? Or, if he says she absolutely will be there, non-negotiable, would you pass on the job altogether?
Since they know the score, a lot of people under you may forgive you for not eliminating her…this time. And maybe this is a one-time thing for both you and them; come November you hit the gas and don’t check the rearview.

But what are the potential ramifications the next time you need a reference for a job? I’d generally ignore it, unless you think you’re going to be repeating at this job and she’s going to be there. An alternative might be a petition from the co-workers. If you’re the one to write their recommendations, maybe they’d be willing to speak freely. Otherwise, not.

My sympathies, dude.

I know going above your boss’s head is supposed to be the Worst Idea Ever, but might this be a case where it’s worth it? I don’t know.

Can you report her for time-card violations? That’s at least something quantitative.

In the meantime, instruct your subordinates not to take orders from her. And if she’s blatantly insubordinate, send her home. If you can. Oy vey!

Ugh. This brings back bad memories. I have not faced exactly this situation, but close enough.

Some off the top of my head suggestions:

  1. Can you kiss up to her in a way that won’t make you puke? Ask her opinion about something? Give her a “special project” and make it clear that you need someone with experience to handle this super important task? Preferably a task that requires her to do the work on her own, i.e. not supervising or bossing around anybody else? Can you ask her advice about something? Hey Joan, which do you think is better, the red or the green for that new sign? Maybe she’s just a complete jerk, I don’t know. On the other hand, maybe she just feels resentful and pissed off that she’s supposed to take orders from somebody much younger than she is. Maybe she’s pissed at her husband. Who knows.

  2. If that doesn’t work, can you just ignore her. Ok, you asked everybody to polish the silverware, and she insists that she has to confirm that with her husband, or she just decides, well, I need to rearrange the socks. so, fine, let her go rearrange the socks. I know that is infuriating, but can you just roll with it (full confession: I’m really bad at this. If the play is for everybody to run right, and she insists on running left, it just infuriates me. But maybe you are more even tempered than I am).

  3. If that doesn’t work, can you try to goad her into complaining to her husband about something stupid. I had a co worker who thought he was my boss and insisted on meddling, demanding round the clock status updates, barking stupid orders. I just ignored him, or did my best to ignore him. He would go to the boss, who was lame and just “wanted everybody to get along.” Well, the boss would then get pissed at the co-worker, rather than at me, since he was the one complaining. I realize this is kind of an “office politics” type strategy, but you have an idiot boss who is too stupid or too chicken to face this situation head on.

  4. Can you just put in your time and say, oh well, whatever. I mean, basically just get your paycheck and do the best you can and then say, whatever? I confess I am bad at this too. If I were in your shoes, I would be coming up with cool ideas for how our store could have the best September ever, and beat the other stores, etc. And it would just drive me insane to have this idiot woman who is nothing but an obstacle.

  5. Finally, get out as soon as you can. You cannot fix this situation. As I said above, your boss is an absolute moron. He knows what is going on. Believe me, he knows what is going on. and you cannot win in that situation. So, bide your time and just get out of that situation. Because you do not have the authority to fix it.

Dumb question: is it possible to simply ask the boss (in writing) whether he expects you to treat this person as a normal employee? If the answer to that is yes, then you’d seem to have a good deal of maneuvering room to counsel, give warnings to and then fire the wife. Of course, I’d pass these things by the boss first.

My only concern with this approach is that I have serious doubts that, if the situation is as described, the boss will give a sincere or clear answer. He will say something like “well, I would hope that we are all adults and we all care about the store and want it to succeed. I mean, I know for sure that Joan just wants what’s best for the store, so I don’t think it’s helpful for us to turn this into a rigid hierarchy. So, you are the manager of the store, but Joan has 20 years of experience and I would think that you would want to take advantage of that in making this a success.”

So, what does the OP have to lose? Well, no matter how carefully phrased the question, it is going to come across as complaining to the boss about his wife. Now, no doubt he already has problems with his wife. It is clear that she is pissed off and resentful that she is not the one running the store (literally and figuratively). So he knows about this conflict, and he is doing his best to avoid it, like most weak bosses do. And asking him a question about authority vis-a-vis Joan will force that conflict out into the open, which will make the boss unhappy.

If your position lasts through November, then I would think about looking for another job now. This is no-win for you. The only way out is to convince your boss to move her to another store, and based on his reaction it is unlikely.

One positive sign is that it even though she is bad-mouthing you to her husband (BTW how do you know this?), it doesn’t look like he is acting on that either.

I thought one option might be to get your other staff to complain to your boss, leaving you with clean hands, but it wouldn’t help because he obviously just doens’t want to deal with this.

Another thought I had was to give her nothing to do. But you say she is doing things she’s not authorized to so, so that won’t help.

Another thought is to go over the boss’s head but he’s still going to be your boss and that won’t be pleasant, and if the wife stays anyway then it will be even worse hell than now.

I have not read your other posts but are you a male or a female? If you are female, is that part of the dynamic? That is, does the boss’s wife resent working for another woman? Do you really have the boss’s respect?

All in all, your only hope is for your boss to divorce his wife. :frowning:

Then he probably is screwed, and will have to suck it up. The issue I was skirting in my first post was that if I were in his shoes, I’d be tempted to push the boundaries a little in order to get something from my boss which would somewhat… vindicate (?) … myself in the situation in light of my other employees. At some point (I’m in a leadership position myself), I believe they deserve something more from me than blind adherence to a policy which condones behavior in one employee for which others would get punished.

However, this is a seasonal gig, so maybe it’s just not that big of a deal. Tough it out; apologize to the other employees that yes, it’s unfair, but there’s nothing you can do; and finally, document everything, just in case. I would even go so far as to counsel her, since hey, that’s your job, and to NOT do so would be neglecting your responsibilities. My guess is that if Mr. spineless Bossman is too much of a coward to address the situation squarely, that he’ll also back down from acting on Jane’s bitching about being counseled.

I came in to say exactly what **mnemosyne **wrote. Naturally I am filled with bubbly orange rage.

I’m echoing flyboy’s response. The OP is in dire need of proper protocol in handling Jane, and asking the boss will stop the guessing of which pair of kid gloves the OP should be wearing. If I had put any of my employees in this position (which I wouldn’t have done in the first place), I would be very interested if Jane was adding or subtracting from the overall productivity of the business. The OP should ask the boss how candid he could be in describing the current situation and maybe suggest moving her out of the hierarchy which is a rock and a hard place for AL.

Good Luck.

It sounds like what you need is a strong pimp-hand brother. Just be like “look bitch.* Here’s the deal. You need to straighten your ass up and fly right. You can go tell your husband to fire me if you want, but until that happens, you work for me so shut your mouth and do your job!”

The whole reason she’s acting up is that she thinks she can get away with it because she can intimidate you by being the bosses wife. Set her straight and everything will be all good. It’s not like your boss wants her in charge. He just wants her out of his hair. He’s probably be like “yeah I’d like to fire him but company policy you know. Best do as he says.” At least that’s how I would be if my bitch was running wild in my store.

As Snoop Dogg says “what kind of pimp holds back? I never met a bitch a pimp can’t slap (metaphorically of course)”

  • you probably shouldn’t actually swear at her

Discipline her.

No, seriously. Because you’re damned if you do, and double damned if you don’t.

Document how much back-talk and lack of work she does. Treat her exactly as you would any other employee.

Make damn sure that you know all of the company policies for termination / discipline backwards and forwards and apply your words without prejudice in her write-ups. Be the most “business” that you can possibly be. Don’t ever let her hear you raise your voice or make any derogatory comments against her. If you’re the manager, be the guy in charge, the one who has to make the decisions, but make the decisions.

If she goes over your head, confront your boss about it. (“We wouldn’t be having this conversation if she weren’t your wife.”) When he’s a bitch and fires you, burn the bridge to the ground - send copies of your documentation to his boss. When you’re asked at the next job interview why you were fired, explain that your boss made his wife your direct subordinate and fired you when you moved to take corrective actions against an insubordinate and lazy worker.

Good luck. The above is waaay easier said than done, I will grant you.

More shit rained down upon mine head today, so the asst. manager and I have decided to document, gain the support of the other employees and discipline. Next time she acts up I will talk to her and document it. If she refuses to talk, she can go home.
The back of my hand is shivering with antici-------------------------------------pation!

Though it will probably melt down, We made a pact to take as many of the good employees with us as possible if it comes to it. Basically, if he plays hardball, We’ll play it’s her or all of us. The few that will hang on, aren’t full timers, and have no managerial experience.

Any update on this? I, for one, am eager to hear how this is going.


Ok, here it is Monday, and we are keyboards are shivering with antici------------------------------------pation.
I still think my advice is good…Don’t ambush the boss with ultimatums; let him know that you want to do the right thing with respect to the company and ask him for the proper protocol in handling his wife. Let him know that you are in between a rock and a hard place. He will appreciate that, and you give him a chance to do the right thing. He needs this chance to fix it. If he refuses to acknowledge and solve the problem, then give him the ultimatum.

But I guess it really comes down to how much you value your job. If you don’t value it, then I guess an ambush will speed things up a bit.

Here’s my advice.

You’re getting paid by the hour, right? Then who cares? The boss doesn’t care if the store goes to shit because of his wife, so why should you care? The boss doesn’t care. The wife doesn’t care. The other employees don’t care. And they sure as hell aren’t paying you enough to care.

You’re the “manager” so you think you have some sort of responsibility. But you don’t. This position is temporary. So start slacking off and just run out the clock until your last paycheck clears.