Q. I work at a pretty small company owned by two brothers. We have a couple offices and they move around between all of them. They both travel lots, but one of them is always here, and they plan it that way. For the first time they are both going to be gone for over a week at the same time. A few of us think someone should be put in charge, but others think we are just fine, and we can always call if we need to. Do we need a stand in boss?
A. Do I hear a hint of teenagers babysitting younger kids? Is someone in charge now who you don’t want to be in charge while the brothers are further away? Does someone need to be charge? Do you and your colleagues anticipate so many different work problems that you’ll need to have someone to go to?
In most organizations, there is a hierarchy in place that works. It may not be based on title, but longevity, or whoever is the expert in a certain area that is considered in charge if there are issues.
If someone is already ”in charge” in each location, consider that person continuing to be in charge. He or she must have a span of control to use that has been discussed and this wouldn’t change when there is no brother to be found.
If you have experienced that the level of control or leadership of this person is lacking when the brothers are away, you need to discuss this with your direct manager, or the brother you report to.
If everyone reports to the brothers and you are all equal, there may be issues if something out of the ordinary comes up and no one has the experience do deal with it. But even then, if the brothers have hired good people with problem solving skills, they should feel confident in their ability to be away for a few days and have their business continue with no risks.
If the brothers haven’t initiated a conversation, maybe they have more confidence in the group than some of you. If you are concerned, clarify how they would like to see things handled while they are gone, you can always say, ”We want to make sure all runs smoothly while you are gone. Are there any specific calls you want or don’t want? Do you want one of us to call you on a regular basis, or will you just be calling in?” Then wish them a good time, and step up to work self-supervised.
-Elaine Varelas, Managing Partner, Keystone Partners
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