• Do you maintain business confidences?

    19 Jul 2019 | 12:00 am

    King Solomon wrote, "He who goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets" (Proverbs 11:13 NASB). We may have confidential information, such as future business plans, pricing, or that a colleague may be dismissed. Keeping your mouth shut is a key[…]

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Dec 05
2001

Managing Friends Gets Tough

Posted by: Steve Marr

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When we work closely with our employees no matter how large or small the business over time we form friendships and create a "family atmosphere" in the workplace. Developing close-knit relationships enriches our time at work, but that same closeness may make it difficult to confront tough, work-related issues squarely. However, by following sound management practices, we can ease the challenge of supervising employees who have become our friends.

The cornerstone of effective staff management and this is true regardless of whether we're overseeing friends is maintaining our objectivity. As managers, our first responsibility to the company is to lead effectively, not to be everybody's personal friend. Start by establishing objective and measurable standards for quality, quantity of work, and dependability, and then enforce those standards consistently and fairly with everybody. Scripture warns us that "to show partiality is not good" (Proverbs 28:21 NASB). Objective standards help us avoid showing undue favor or partiality to anyone at work.

The second key is to confront performance issues quickly. Allowing time to pass will only ingrain bad habits and make future confrontation more difficult. Most employees will assume their performance is satisfactory unless they hear otherwise, so it's important to speak up right away when you notice a decrease in productivity, quality, or customer service. If you allow issues to fester, you're more likely to receive a surprised and angry response when you finally intervene. "Well, you never said anything before..."
Many managers seek to avoid conflict by dealing with problems indirectly. For example, instead of sitting a chronically late employee down and establishing that tardiness is not acceptable, they might say "Good afternoon" when the person walks in the door, hoping the employee will "take the hint." When we are personally close to our colleagues, dealing with performance issues will become more difficult. It can be tempting to gloss over problems and avoid confrontation, but improvement will only happen when issues are appropriately confronted. When correcting an employee, focus objectively on the issue and avoid stating how you feel. Be direct, and clarify your expectations. "Through presumption comes nothing but strife" (Proverbs 13:10 NASB)

If the problem continues after corrective action, the next step is to establish future consequences. Promptly meet with the person again, review your expectations, clearly state where the shortfall is occurring, and explain what work must be improved. Set a deadline for improvement, and define the consequences for noncompliance, like reduced job rating, no salary increase, or other action. "A servant cannot be corrected by mere words- though he understands, he will not respond" (Proverbs 29:19 NIV) Ultimately, even with friends, we must be willing to establish and adhere to firm boundaries and standards.

Don't let friendship be used against you as a manager. Allowing an employee to wriggle off the hook based on relationship will destroy your ability to manage that person in the future. The key to preserving objectivity and keeping friendship out of the discussion is to move the conversation away from the employee's circumstances and back to the issue or problem that needs to be addressed. Start by confirming the situation with a direct question: "Was the shipment made on time?" Ask for a yes or no. Next, ask the employee how the situation can be corrected to satisfy your customer, and how can future problems be avoided. Insist on permanent solutions and consistent follow-through.

Having a work relationship with someone won't necessarily enhance your friendship. In fact, confronting performance issues as a business leader will often strain, or even destroy, personal friendships. Effective business owners and managers know that leadership must come first. Realistically, not every friendship can be preserved. Before you hire a friend, consider whether you both are willing and able to change your friendship into a working relationship. With wisdom, objectivity, and consistency, you can successfully navigate the tricky waters of managing friends and close associates.

Steve Marr, Your christian business Coach

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