My supervisor wants me to hire his nephew for the summer. We have other, more-qualified applicants – this doesn’t feel right. Is there a way I can say no? Should I go over my boss’ head?
Don’t go over his head. Get into his head. Diplomatically ask him three questions. If he gives perfect answers, it will go like this:
Question 1: Authority
You: Boss, I need your direction on this hiring decision. Is it my responsibility to hire for this job?
Boss: Of course. You have the authority.
Question 2: Authority
You: Is it unconditional? Or would you like prior approval?
Boss: Like I said, it’s your call.
Question 3: Judgment
You: Righto. I plan to hire the best person for the job. Is that how you see it?
Boss: Of course.
Even with that perfect scenario, he won’t like your decision, so prepare yourself for negative consequences. More likely, he’ll balk at one of the three questions.
Here are your options:
Q1. If he claims authority to hire, simply hand the decision back to him. Conscience clear.
Q2. If he requires prior approval, propose your best candidate and work your way down till he approves. In effect, he’s deciding. Conscience clear.
Q3. If he values factors other than qualification, like friends or relatives, you have a disagreement.
Now it boils down to your candidate or his candidate. If you select yours, your conscience is clear but your job might be in jeopardy. If so, you have a good case for appealing higher up. If you go his way, your conscience might be compromised. That’s a matter only you can navigate. But at least you’ve earnestly tried to chart the right course.