Sunday, January 17, 2016

Time to Retire

I work in a family business, at least to the extent that my step-dad is my boss.  (No one else I work with is related to me, although I have informally adopted some of my colleagues after so many years of paddling up poop creek together.)  It's a mixed blessing working with my step-dad, and lately it has gotten more difficult.

He's gettin' old.  He had a hip replacement that left him with one leg functionally shorter than the other, so he kind of shuffles when he walks and his balance isn't good.  I suspect that he doesn't sleep well because he is very dozy some days; he should probably be wearing a CPAP mask.  I have seen him in meetings barely able to keep his eyes open.  His memory is also not reliable anymore.

He's always been disorganized.  Dr. Spark's opinion is that he has ADD.  He lets his papers pile up on his desk until there is a mountain of random documents, and then he sweeps them all into a trash bag and starts from scratch again.  My mother got into the habit of going through his trash bin before disposing of it because he's thrown out Very Important Papers so many times.  She does her best, but she can't always keep up with his impulsive mass disposals.

He loses things.  He's the type who would lose his head if it weren't attached.  Cell phones, his laptop (fortunately it has always been returned to him), two or three wedding rings (he doesn't wear one any more because it got too expensive to keep replacing them), credit cards, his driver's license....  You name it, he has lost it.  Sometimes he finds the things again, like when he found his cell phone in a shoe under his bed after it had been missing for three days.  Most times, not.

Lately, all of these problems have gotten noticeably worse.  He's on time for 25% of meetings, late (moderately to extremely) for 25%, and completely forgets about the other 50%.  Sometimes we're able to get him participating via speakerphone, but it's nowhere as effective as being there in person.  When I book a meeting, I ask him verbally about the time.  Then I e-mail him.  Then I remind him a couple of days before, and usually the day before and/or the morning of.  Sometimes he still doesn't show up for those meetings.

He can't keep situations straight in his head.  If you explain a situation to him, he'll have forgotten at least half of what you said, if it was complicated, by the next day.  If you work out what the solution should be together, and then you have a meeting a few days later to pass along that information to other people, you'd better re-brief him before the meeting or he'll get it all mixed up.  Except for certain things which he obsesses about, and wants to solve RIGHT NOW or he can't have a moment's peace.  Even if it might be wiser to just wait.

The worst part of it is that he gets excited by new business ideas and wants to participate.  We still need his signature regularly, even though it's difficult to get the cheques/papers signed because he doesn't come in to the office on a regular schedule.  Work processes stall or go around in circles because he has dropped the ball or given conflicting instructions to different people at different times.  He's aware that his behaviour creates problems, at least intellectually, but he just can't bring himself to step back.

There is no conclusion to this.  He'll probably keep going, at a slight downhill angle, until it's totally impossible to carry on for one reason or another.  And that is reason number 3,047 why Spark gets stressed at work.


Abby said...

Wow, that does sound stressful. It's a sensitive topic to suggest someone step back when they aren't willing or aware that it's the right thing. To have it be a family member must be all that more tricky. Good luck!

Granny Annie said...

Your company has a real challenge with this beloved worker. My son works in a similar situation. One of the owners of his company has Alzheimer disease. They still bring her to work for half days and she goes to adult daycare for the other half. My son basically spends his morning keeping her from going out the back door. He remembers her from better days. It is hard but part of him wants to say "this is not in my job description."

DarcKnyt said...

Wow. This is a hard, hard situation, Spark. There isn't a solution. Even if the company could collectively "retire" him, it would be a blow for the family. If they allow this to go on, it could harm the company. Very difficult situation.

It's hard to see it from the inside, I'd guess. And I'm sorry it's stressful for you. I wish I could offer you the same laser-point accurate advice you've always had for me. Unfortunately, I'm watching our company crumble too, and I'm a little nervous myself.

I'll say a prayer for you though. I can totally relate to stress.

Ginny said...

That's a tough situation and adds more stress for you. Has he ever talked about retiring? Maybe there's some way to convince him to retire? I really wish I had some better advice for you.

G. B. Miller said...

It's always hard going down the river without a paddle, and doubly harder when it involves family. I'm with a few of the others in that there has to be a gentle way to nudge him to the sidelines. Surely, he must see that he's making it tougher for his business to properly succeed the longer he tries to stay involved.

Father Nature's Corner

Vanessa T said...

Aww, Spark. I'm so sorry. I can't even begin to imagine what kind of stress that places on you, not just at work but at home too, in your family relationships. :(

Would your mother be able to be an ally for you? Could you enlist her help in convincing your step-dad to retire?

Still, if he retired, would that impact your job in any way?

Sheesh, spirals you can make. I don't envy you, but I am praying for you, for your family. This is not an easy situation for anyone to deal with on any level. *hugs*

Lynn said...

The owner of my company comes in and kind of gets in the way. We all like him, but he wants to be involved and ends of saying off the wall things to our customers.

Your situation is tough - hang in there.

LL Cool Joe said...

That sounds like a nightmare situation. Does he have any sense that perhaps he's not firing on all cylinders anymore? Maybe he'll feel his not doing his job as well as he was, or maybe not. Tough one for you!

Snowbrush said...

If you’re right that he has sleep apnea, that alone can cause every problem you mentioned. I have severe sleep apnea and have used a CPAP for years, and can tell you that they’ve only gotten better and better. Sleep apnea often kills people, and I've no doubt but what I would have long since dead without treatment.