Slackers in the office? Must be the boss's kids

Nepotism rears its ugly head when a new timekeeping system reveals two workers' lazy, cheating ways

It's not what you know, it's who you know -- especially at a family-owned business. I've worked for a few during my years in IT and witnessed many instances when blood relations translated to special privileges, to the dismay of the rest of the workforce.

When I came on board at one such company, the second generation was in management and the founders' children were beginning to graduate from college. The higher-ups soon created jobs with good titles and little responsibility for the offspring holding shiny, new diplomas. As an outsider who saw much and listened well, I was privy to a lot of information that left me gobsmacked.

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The company started decades prior to the electronic revolution, in a familiar pattern: Business was conducted with triplicate paper invoices, adding machines, and ledgers. As the company progressed and expanded, it went through the stages of dot-matrix impact printers and DOS-based accounting programs. These in turn slowly yielded to Microsoft Windows and laser printers. The company tried to stay competitive, though not on the cutting edge of technology.

After adopting a new payroll package that used time clocks and imported the swipes directly into the software, our manufacturing facility enjoyed significant labor savings. No longer did the payroll personnel have to spend hours poring over printed time sheets or punch cards determining actual hours worked.

The payroll department was very grateful and suggested we install the device at headquarters to collect the times of those 50 or so office employees -- where two of the offspring worked.

Looks good on paper

The payroll staff, sequestered in its own wing of the building and not privileged to be related to the owners or execs, was not aware of the problems this would create. In order to be "fair," all employees were to swipe in for the day, out to lunch, in from lunch, and out for the day by order of the CEO.

My office overlooked the general cubicle area, and I watched to see how this directive would play out. I knew these two employees had developed a habit of leaving for lunch between 11:30 and noon and not returning before 1:30 -- if at all.

Other employees were frustrated, but it seemed nothing could be done. Exceptions reports would readily show these long lunches and missed punches, and I expected we'd finally see pushback of some sort.

Busy the first week on the new implementation, I overheard only suppressed muttering by the two individuals who were now limited to one hour for lunch. I thought maybe they'd eventually adapt. A quick check of the exceptions report showed their times were within the grace period, and they appeared to be adhering to the one-hour lunch period.

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