Q: Despite the fact that our company has just introduced a strict 'no favours' code for allocating internships, my boss has just handed me a note, which has come via his boss and his boss's boss, asking us to find a discreet work experience slot for the chairman's niece, on the QT. What's the best way to handle it?
A: You should never have been asked to find such a slot. It's not, of course, a request: it's an instruction masquerading as a request, and it should never have been issued. But it has been and there's now no perfect response.
You're three management layers down from your boss's boss's boss. If you refuse to cooperate, you'll simply shift the problem back up the chain to another luckless person who'll feel just as tacky as you do about the whole affair. The initial suggestion has come from people senior enough to have introduced the 'no favours' code in the first place. Once they failed to inform their chairman that the code was inviolable, the damage was done.
You can't take it out on the niece: it's not her fault. But you can make it clear to your boss that this is a once and only, and hope that he does the same.
- Jeremy Bullmore is a former creative director and chairman of J Walter Thompson London. Email him your problems on email@example.com. Regrettably, no correspondence can be entered into.