Co-founders wife getting in the way.

I run a fairly successful startup. We have 14 employees and our numbers are looking good. However, ever since my co-founder got married a few months ago, his wife started to get more and more involved in the business. No one invited her and yet, she comes to the office, has lunch with us, and lately I caught her several times telling people what to do, once even picking up a call from a client!

This makes me unconfortable, because I tend not to agree with her vision (she’s too agressive, and frankly knows nothing of our business), and every time I discussed it with my partner, he says he’ll talk to her. Every time we get some calm for a couple of days, and then she’s back.

Last Friday things went too far, when she called me an idiot and said I am not qualified to manage things in front of the entire staff. I laughed and turned the whole thing into a joke, but it’s getting quite annoying. And what’s worse, I can tell my co-founder is annoyed at her, but can’t really manage the situation. He’s too much of a nice guy.

  • Wow, that sounds awful. It sounds like you’re doing everything you can, I think your only next options are reprimanding her (or with your cofounder present), or humiliating her in front of your workers which might make you look like a POS.

    Tough spot, maybe send your cofounder the link to this confession so he gets the picture. Does he really want to ruin everything you guys have built because his new wife needs a hobby?

  • this sounds awful. tell your co-worker to handle his wife (who doesn’t even belong there) if he doesn’t, you need to. end of discussion. you are too nice. You need to put her in her place, which is out of your office and business before she gets out of control.

  • Hire an attractive female employee and tell her to make passes at your co-founder. When the co-founder’s wife makes a fuss and forces him to fire her, have her write a blog post about how toxic the environment is at the company due to the co-founder’s wife.

    Then get the board to oust your co-founder and wife to save face for the company.

    Problem solved.

  • This is a horrible situation but you’ve got to remember that you and your partner are the bosses and this woman is not involved professionally.

    Perhaps she see’s your co-founders share as half hers after she married the guy?

    If it were me I would have a very frank and honest conversation with the co-founder and then another one with the co-founder and his wife. Making it clear that although you like her (its irrelevant if you do or not) that she cannot interrupt the business you are building and she has no authority over the businesses employees and isn’t welcome during trading hours. Its important not to allow her to poison the culture or disrupt the team you’ve built, you really need to nip this in the bud.

    • If your partner is too nice a guy to stand up to her, he’s probably too nice to stand up for himself. She may be insisting on coming in to the office to stand up to you on behalf of her husband. She may be telling you the things he can’t. Yes, you have to get rid of her, but don’t miss any other signs that might be revealing themselves.

  • This is more than a simple employee issue, since she’s not an employee. It’s a partnership issue.

    Therefore, you need to document everything regarding her involvement, and get your corporate attorney involved.

    Don’t try to cut your business partner off at the knees if you get along with him, ’cause he’s walking a fine line, but you may have to “drop this” on him so she doesn’t catch wind of it.

  • Fire her.

    What’s that, she says? She doesn’t work for you? Then clarify all non-employees/non-founders must stay out of the office.

    If you are the de facto manager, you couldn’t accept such an insult from an employee – so you can’t accept it from an interloper, either.

    Other ways to emphasize her non-role, both to her and others:

    Draw up an org chart. It can be as non-hierarchical as things often really are in a small startup. But she’s nowhere on it. Emphasize that people answering calls, giving employee directions, or setting strategy must be on the org chart, or leave.

    Check up on your business insurance. Maybe you have Directors and Officers insurance, or maybe not and you need it? Or there’s other business insurance, including workmen’s compensation, that only covers paid employees? In any case, she’s not on it, so it’s an unacceptable and unprofessional risk to have her performing duties in the office.

  • I’m not sure about this but what do others think of having this founder (the OP) be the bad guy, and leave the husband out of it? It might be good to mess up only one relationship at a time, meaning don’t ask the co-founder to also risk his relationship with his own wife over this.

    Basically the co-founder (the one with the wife) just gets an ultimatum from the OP and he’s powerless to fight it.

    Looking into the insurance implications is a really good idea. Also look into what your investors expect from the company. And see if she has any other interesting connections that matter, like daughter/family friend of a funder, etc.

    IMHO this situation has to be immediately and decisively nipped in the bud with a very firm hand, or it will spiral out of control.

  • I know she’s not hired, yet, but to prevent her from being hired, you should institute a “no nepotism” rule that covers everyone in the office.

  • Give her something to do. If she’s married to a co-founder, she’s going to have some presence for the long haul. Give her something very challenging. If she’s good, then you have a free asset. She obviously has energy and nowhere to direct it. Direct it for her.

  • You should treat this just like you would if the issue was with an employee. Also make sure that the operating agreement spelled out that the company and buy back shares is a founder dies so that you don’t end up with a spouse that’s like this one or one that has no interest in the company and miss vested in however much.

  • Give her a job and pay her a wage. Fire someone else that she will be replacing. making her answerable to you. Give her a job description and manage her, Make sure you train her for a day so that she understands fully what her role is and make sure you counsel her just like any other staff member when she underperforms. This is how I deal with staff who may be members of my partners family.

    You must be fair and encourage her to follow the rules as you are now her manager and she is your responsibility.

    If this can’t be done, it is better to approach your partner and tell her not to come during business hours because she has no role in the business.

    I would suggest that you and your partner also set job descriptions for yourselves so that good practice is put in place for everyone.

  • Ban Yoko before its too late. The insurance idea above is great, so is getting investor involvement, or just waiting until the next time anything comes up dropping the ban-hammer on her from the office. I mean, point to the door, show it to her, and say you don’t want to have to call security. Wait 48hrs for her to cool off, and tell her that you know she is there for the long-haul, and will sometimes be present “socially” but that if she ever undermines the workplace again as a quasi-employee, that you will have no choice but to ban her.

  • You need to have an adult conversation about her with your co-founder and tell him she is not OK in the company. Then, you need to tell her politely to leave your company alone. If that doesn’t work, you need to make hard legal decisions to keep your company, employees and investors.

  • Been there. My wife joined, started throwing her weight around. One day I called her out publicly, she resigned in a huff

  • If your co-founder can get his wife pregnant, that will get her out of the picture for a while. Of course it will also likely decrease his effectiveness, especially after the baby is born.

  • This is nothing… Imagine CEO and co-founder brought his girlfriend to work as a brand manager without a day in the office and lack of English speaking. Then she got so powerful that started firing people and employing her also not qualified friends. Other CTO guy and co-founder complained but nothing happened.

    Most of the folks just kiss her ass in order to survive.

    Not sure how investors will react to this.

    So if you think wife involvement is bad, imagine this. 🙂

    • Ha… I know who she is!!… ex nude model of 15 years and circus artist with some serious temper problems. In all misery people decided to use her as a accomplice for getting their ideas to CEO’s head as she is rather stupid to realize who is using her for what.

      Company is turning into circus anyways, so she is def in a right place.

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