This question often comes up in workshops, particularly if the topic is about managing someone’s performance. Work meets a fundamental human need we have to be with other people. We can make lifelong friends at work, meet our flatmates, our future partners. Everyone’s working long hours and the atmosphere’s sociable. But you’ve noticed your mate isn’t doing their fair share and now you’re not sure what to do.
Let me be clear: this isn’t easy.
But the worst thing you can do if you find you’re managing someone you see socially is to ignore their performance (and head for the pub). Good, bad or indifferent, you need to deal with it. Welcome to your job.
- If you have favourites in any way, whether for allocating tasks or socialising after work, you will be setting yourself up for a bump further down the road.
- If you comment on other team members’ performance and not your friend’s, the others will notice.
- If you give your mate more leeway – coming in late, delivering work that’s sub-standard, to name just two – the other people you manage will feel resentful. And they’ll have a point.
- If you avoid tough conversations with your friend because you don’t want to upset them or appear a creep, chances are you have to make excuses for them at some point, which isn’t good.
So what can you do?
You need to give them feedback – and fast. Stick to the facts and clearly explain the behaviour you’ve noticed, the impact it’s having – and then ask your friend what they think. Let them speak, hear them out, and ask for their suggestions to improve.
Brutal as this may seem, a smart option may be to lower the intensity of the friendship, at least for a while. By all means have an honest conversation with your mate to clear the air, and explain that you don’t want to jeopardise your friendship – but nor do you want to fall down on the job.
Be clear that both the friendship and your job are important to you, and that neither of you can risk being accused of favouritism. So that could mean there will be some awkward conversations at some point otherwise it’s not fair on anyone – you, them, and your colleagues.
Explain that you need to focus on work when you’re at work and treat all your team the same. If you don’t the others might feel excluded and resentment could build up.
Discuss the issue with your manager and get their advice on handling the situation. They may well have been in a similar situation. They may also have been wondering when you were going to address the problem.
It’s possible the friendship may not survive you having a difficult conversation with your friend if their performance isn’t up to standard, but if that’s the case the friendship was probably pretty flimsy anyway.
Worried you won’t have a social life? Then now’s a good time to get back in touch with other friends from beyond your current workplace and rekindle those relationships.
This blog post may also be of interest: Want to get promoted? Get a network.
Image: Hard work and lazy businessman – @kibsir/depositphotos