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Can't Be Pro(fessional) With my Bro
September 8, 2011 1:39 PM   Subscribe

How can I continue doing occasional work for a company without having to interact with my brother who also works there?

My brother, who I usually have a horrible relationship with, suggested that I apply for an internship at his company at the beginning of the summer. At this time we were on OK terms. I applied and got the internship in department A. He was my supervisor--i.e. the one giving me assignments. Soon enough, our toxic relationship reared its head, we had an argument and I quit.

A couple of weeks later, someone else at the company contacted me and asked me to come in for an internship for a slightly different position in department B. (This person didn't even realize I had been at the company a few weeks ago, they just came across my resume. I'm sure my brother gave some excuse like I found another job if anyone asked why I was no longer there). I worked in that position for the rest of the summer and the team was very happy with me. Occasionally I would do assignments related to the first position in department A I had there, though I was interacting with someone else to get assignments-not my brother.

When the internship ended last week, my supervisor said I could continue doing occasional assignments for them in department A as a way to expand my portfolio and to stay on the company's radar should a paid position come up. The thing is, the person with whom I was usually in contact in department A ("Bob") is away for vacation and told me to instead contact "Jim"--i.e. my brother for assignments.

I don't want to be in touch with him. It will only lead to misery. Is there a professional way to let "Bob" know that I would prefer to interact with him for assignments rather than my brother? His email about being away on vacation was hazy--I'm not sure if he meant to contact my brother just for the duration of the vacation or from this point on. Let's assume it's from this point on. Is there a professional way to tell Bob I'd rather not get assignments from Jim? Bob knows Jim is my brother, by the way.

My brother will not keep things strictly professional, but will rather take any correspondence between us as a way to give his opinion on matters about my personal life, which is the reason I'd prefer no contact with him.
posted by oceanview to Work & Money (7 answers total)
 
Why not tell Bob, who knows about your relationship, that "As you know, Jim is my brother, and I think we would both prefer to keep this at arm's length so that no one need ever worry that our family relationship is a cause for concern. Have a great vacation. I look forward to hearing from you when you return." Or something to that effect?

If correspondence is required by email, keep it written, and just don't respond to anything Jim says that isn't relevant to the work. If it persists, write that "I'd rather not waste Company's time and resources discussing personal matters best kept private."
posted by Hylas at 1:46 PM on September 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Is there a professional way to tell Bob I'd rather not get assignments from Jim?

No. You don't get to pick and chose your supervisors when you're an intern or in an entry level position. If you've had a good reputation at this place, and the dept. is happy with your work, why mess this up by trying to turn yourself into a special case? You can tell Bob that you'd rather not work with your brother, but frankly, what's next? You don't want to work with someone else because of her astrological sign or because he lives on a street you don't like?

Maybe you should look for work someplace where no one knows your brother or other family members.
posted by Ideefixe at 1:49 PM on September 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


choose. I can spell, honest.
posted by Ideefixe at 1:49 PM on September 8, 2011


Speaking as a woman who spent the entirety of an extremely acrimonious break up working in a four person department with my ex: no, there is no professional way to tell Bob that you'd rather not get assignments from Jim. It will always look petty and it will always be tiresome. Your boss doesn't care about your personal problems, your boss just wants you to do your job.

I would say, just get your assignments from your brother. If he makes a personal comment, ignore it. Don't respond to it, don't acknowledge it. It sounds like you'll be receiving these assignments via electronic correspondence, so that should be easy enough to do.
posted by chichimimizu at 1:51 PM on September 8, 2011


I’m going to assume that you are doing (or potentially will be doing) things on a freelance basis. I’m also assuming that the email you refer to said, “Please contact person X (your brother) if you need anything during my vacation” or similar verbiage.

OP, don’t send an email saying/or send a phone call saying “I do not want to interact with person X.” They are considering you a professional, and as a professional, don’t go in with guns blazing before or red flags before they even offered you a project.

Instead, just wait until Bob gets back. Just drop him a friendly email. Keep it casual, ask how things are going/his vacation, and remind him that you are still interested in potential projects and that’s it. If you don’t hear anything, in a month or a few months send an updated CV and check in again.

Also, congrats on being offered that …they obviously liked your work. If you want to do more stuff, you should also consider looking for other companies that do similar stuff (googling, linkedin, etc.) and offer your services.

It is okay to have clients that you like more or less and to preferentially work with one another. Do not tell them you dislike and cannot work with person X or do not like them. If it gets to that point, charge more or ditch them as a client.
posted by Wolfster at 1:51 PM on September 8, 2011


Maybe you could make a simple web form for assignments, so that your brother won't really have an obvious opportunity to work in personal stuff? I know that informal communication is important, so you'd still have to deal with it somehow, but an "assignment" form (date, client, internal contacts, deadline, deadline considerations, description) and a "feedback/solution" might at least provide structure for the most important parts. You'll obviously have follow-up questions, and you'll have to find a way to get your brother to use the forms --- find some benefit he or the company will get, or a way the system answers a need he's expressed in the past.

I know, I know, it probably won't work, but if you're creative enough maybe this will give you an idea.
posted by amtho at 2:15 PM on September 8, 2011


there is really no way to do this without appearing completely unable to be a professional when it comes to your work/career.
posted by violetk at 2:28 PM on September 8, 2011


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