How to discipline a friend

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Personal relationships sometimes blossom in the workplace but things can quickly turn sour if your friend starts to let things slide. Here, one expert explains how leaders should handle the sensitive situation.

“I would approach it in the same way you would with any other employee,” says industry advisor Kathy Kolbe. “That is, begin with conversations about what isn’t going right and what isn’t happening which needs to happen.”

Since performance issues rarely arise overnight, Kolbe says HR professionals should be counselling their friend along the way, as they would with any other employee in a performance review.

“You need to be specific and say what behaviours need to change, what needs to be done differently,” she says.

If things don’t improve, Kolbe says HR professionals should consider having a one-on-one chat.

“I would bring them in without anyone else present, just the two of you, but I would still do it in the office,” she suggests. “I would explain to them why I felt it wasn’t working, what specific problems there were and whether maybe this was just not the right job for them or the right business situation.”

However, Kolbe – who recently co-penned ‘Business is Business: Reality Checks for Family-Owned Companies’ – says the situation doesn’t have to be a solely negative one. In fact, it’s a perfect opportunity to point out your friend’s skills and strengths.

“I would describe for them what their strengths are and the things I thought they could do very well,” she says. “I would discuss what it is about them which would make them very good at other kinds of jobs and then perhaps why this one wasn’t working based on their instincts.

“Then with objectivity instead of emotion, I would clarify that I would be able to certainly do everything I could to find them a job which would be better for them and maybe make introductions.”

While the underperforming employee may be a close friend, Kolbe says HR professionals shouldn’t drag out a situation which isn’t working for everyone.

“I would not get into a discussion of performance review after one or two times,” she says. “I wouldn’t let it become a long term issue so if it’s not working discuss it once or twice but then move on.”

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