Supervising friends and family has the potential to be one of the most productive work
relationships that exists in the workplace. Sadly, this is not always the case. Whether
supervising a long time friend, managing a family member, or being promoted to
supervising your peers, it is critical that all new managers learn to overcome these four
pitfalls.

Poor Performance.

One of the most amazing dynamics when supervising friends is that
they often will take you for granted, assuming that you will accept their poor
performance because of your relationship. In fact, it often occurs that when the new
manager is a friend, the employee begins to lessen their own standards of performance.
Whether this is done intentionally or not, you must address it.. The greater problem is in
the response you receive when poor performance is addressed. Often, new managers feel
that their requests are ignored by friends they supervise. If this is a new supervisory
relationship it is absolutely critical that you have a meeting in which you clearly lay out
the expectations in this relationship. They need to know that for their sake (so other’s
won’t gossip about them) and for your sake (so your team will not lose respect for you
and your authority) that you must treat them the same as every other member of your
team, and that the performance standards as well as the disciplinary standards will remain
consistent. If you’ve already begun to experience this, you must confront the problem
directly. You can have an informal discussion about it at first, but if that does not change
the situation, then you must address this in a serious manner. Follow your company’s
procedure for handling performance issues. Make sure that you clearly communicate that
these are not just requests, they are directions given by their supervisor. Remember,
everyone else is watching you.

Voicing Your Own Negative Feelings About the Organization or Your Supervisor.

become a supervisor, there is a part of you that is always ‘on’. This means that there are
now subjects you don’t get into, and boundaries you don’t cross. Even though you may
have a legitimate issue with the organization, or your supervisor, never express them to
the people you manage. First, it can negatively affect them as employees, especially if
they have similar concerns, and cause severe future consequences. Second, it puts them
in a very uncomfortable position, if they don’t agree with all of your concerns. Third, it
creates an environment that causes employees to vent and voice negative feelings even
when you’re not around, and sometimes about you. Fourth, it could very easily get to the
wrong person and now affect your reputation. The key to this is you must find a new
sounding board, someone who is at arms distance away from your job. Ideally this is
someone who doesn’t work with you and doesn’t have any type of relationship with any
one from your job, like a neighbor or a relative. In some instances it can be a co-worker
in another department or a mentor, but use caution when that’s the case. The two of you
need to agree that he or she should function as a “dead end” (some you can tell delicate
information to and it ends with them). Thus when you voice your feelings, there is no
chance of it getting to the wrong person or negatively affecting someone involved in the
organization.

Manipulation.

Of all the pitfalls that must be overcome, manipulation is often the most
challenging. Manipulation occurs when the other person leverages their friendship
against you to get what they want. First, do not let this affect you emotionally. Do not be
fooled. This is rarely just a normal conversation that leaves you feeling guilty. This is
almost always being done to you intentionally. More importantly, it is also a sign of
disrespect. This person believes that you are weak and will succumb to emotional
terrorism. Second, address this as early as possible. The more it occurs, the more it
becomes a pattern. This also keeps you from building resentment. Third, don’t beat
around the bush. Subtlety is not effective in this situation. If you feel someone is
leveraging your friendship against you, address it head on. One of the most common
phrases new managers hear as they are being manipulated is, “I thought we were
friends!” a great response to this is, “In reality, if we were the friends I thought we were,
you wouldn’t put me in this situation in the first place.” This helps to express that true
friendship is not one sided and should not be used for the purpose of manipulation.

Favoritism or Perceptions of Favoritism.

You should expect to be accused of
favoritism when you manage a friend. Avoiding the previous four pitfalls, will help to
minimize any legitimate complaints a worker could have regarding favoritism. But in
reality, even when you do your absolute best to make certain that all associates are treated
based on their work, you must realize that not every accusation of favoritism is accurate.
Many people don’t take responsibility for their own performance. When was the last
time you heard someone say, “I didn’t get that promotion because I wasn’t qualified?”
Most would rather find someone else to blame or misapply a statement like “It’s not what
you know but who you know.” Don’t let it get to you. This is just a combination of
blame shifting and manipulation. Address the issue by letting the other members of the
team know that there is no favoritism here and that every one is being held to the same
standard.
Although these techniques may seem simple it doesn’t mean they are easy, but when you
overcome the emotional challenge of the friend-supervisor dynamic, success is assured.

Summary

Supervising friends and family has the potential to be one of the most productive work
relationships that exists in the workplace. Sadly, this is not always the case. Whether
supervising a long time friend, managing a family member, or being promoted to
supervising your peers, it is critical that all new managers learn to overcome these four
pitfalls.

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