My Boss is a Mean SOB

Beverly Flaxington is a practice management consultant. She answers questions from advisors facing human resource issues. To submit yours, email us here.

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Dear Bev,

We are at a gridlock in our firm due to the relationship between the two founders. We have to determine if it makes sense to make a couple of adds to staff in key support roles. The founders recently had a falling out over a personal issue that I cannot share without my entire firm reading this note and knowing what firm is being referenced. It is sufficient to say the issue was very serious. One partner was badly burned while the other considers it a non-event. As a result, they have gone into their respective offices and refused to come out when the other partner is in the office. It’s a very tense situation.

We still have a firm to run. We have had two open requisitions for a couple of months, for client servicing and a very high-level executive assistant. Interviews have been conducted and the market is very tight. It has taken us a long time to identify a final set of three candidates for each role. Historically when we narrow down candidates for a role, the founders and the two other partners meet with the people as a team. They have an organized set of questions they ask. Then, just like the papal conclave in Rome, they send up the smoke signal to tell us who they have selected. It’s always worked fine because we all narrow down the final three. We are happy with whomever gets selected, and they have a choice in the matter.

What do we do now that we have two grown men, the founders, who won’t even be in the same room together? Do we tell our candidates the approach will be different (we always share the entire process from the outset? They’ve been told for many weeks the final step is this meeting with the Fearsome Four.) Do we delay these very important hires even though it has taken us months to get to this place? Do we tell our founders to suck it up and run the risk something will happen in front of the candidates? We don’t have an official HR person. A couple of my colleagues and I who typically spearhead the hiring process are trying to figure this out. One of the four has been on vacation, so we’ve had a reason to delay but we can’t hold out indefinitely.

E.Y.