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How can I Manage My Friend

How can I manage my friend?

On a recent training course, in oxford, I was asked the following question, by a delegate called Kim, which I have heard many times before, from previous delegates.

"How can I manage poor performance from the people who are, at the same time, my subordinate colleagues, as well as being my friends?"

I answered Kim in the following way.

"Kim, you find yourself in a common, and difficult situation. You are a manager of a team that forms part of a larger organisation. You have been promoted to team leader. You and the other people in your team have known each other for years, and are friends.

And now you are also trying to manage them.

This is usually a fine situation, but sometimes it causes you problems.

The problem occurs when the friend-colleague does something wrong.

  • He does something that he should not do
  • He fails to do things that he should do

Now you are required to give your friend colleague some negative feedback; corrective feedback; criticism.

This causes you problems.

It causes you problems because there is now a clash of interests between two conflicting desires in your mind.
You do want to remain friends and so don't want to criticise your friend's behaviour.
You do want to be considered a good manager, and so you need to criticise your colleague's behaviour.

What are you to do?

Here are the steps.

This is what you should do.

  1. Decide that, whilst at work, you are primarily a manager, and secondarily a friend.
  2. Recognise that you cannot put your friendship loyalties over your obligations to yourself as a manager.
  3. Recognise that if you did subordinate your obligations as a manager, to your duty as a friend, then you would fail as a manager.

If you want to succeed as a manager, and gain respect as a friend, then you must not pretend that nothing is happening, you must instead deal with the conflict situation quickly and effectively.

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By what means should you deal with the conflict situation?

Here are some more steps:
Tell the person IN FACTUAL language, exactly what it is he is doing wrong. Name the behaviour, or name the omission, in specific, objective, factual language.


Kevin, for the last four days, you have arrived at work between twenty minutes and half an hour late.

Step two:

Ask for the corrective behaviour: Use the magic phrase: "instead of that, in future, would you please......." And then name the exact corrective behaviour, in specific, objective, factual language.

For example:

You are contracted to start work at nine, so Instead of being late, in future, would you please.......Come in on time; ready to start work at 0900, as you are contracted."
Make your statements completely objective and factual.
Do not make your statements emotional, evaluative or opinionated.

Example of emotional statement: "I am disappointed and annoyed by the fact that you have chosen to come in late..........."
Example of evaluative statement: "It is totally unacceptable and unprofessional of you to come in so late............".
Example of opinionated language: "in my opinion you have no excuse to come in late. Four days on the trot. In my opinion it makes you look really bad."

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This is important for you to remember

Use only factual specific objective, language.

Never use opinionated, emotionalised, evaluative or judgmental language.
If you keep to these two rules you will be able to correct your friend- colleague without soiling your friendship making your criticism sound like an insult.
Think about this:

Is there a difference between?

"A criticism" and "an insult".



What is the difference between a criticism and an insult?
Answer: all insults are expressed in highly opinionated, emotionalised, evaluative and-or judgmental language.

All critical feedback messages provide: specific, objective, factual information.

This information is:

What is the wrong behaviour?
What is the corrective behaviour?

If you understand and apply these principles, then you will be able to critique your friend's performance.
He - she might even thank you for doing so.

For more information about manager training please visit the Corporate Coach Training website

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