Use objective data when evaluating a close friend


November 26, 1990|By Gerald Graham | Gerald Graham,Knight-Ridder Newspapers

"I sure hope I get a good raise this year. We have had an awful lot of expenses."

Some version of this phrase is spoken thousands of times each year. Typically, the comment is of little consequence. However, when the person who utters the phrase is a close friend and a subordinate, comments about pay increases take on a different look.

When the spouses of the subordinate and the manager are also close friends, the issue becomes even more prickly. And when the subordinate is performing below expectations, the molehill can become a mountain.

Performance reviews provide excellent opportunities, in my opinion, to communicate with a "friend" who is performing below expectations.

Objective measures of performance become even more important when evaluating a friend. Select factors such as sales increases, new accounts, market share gained, accuracy and timeliness of reports, and feedback from other departments as a basis for determining the wage increase.

"Because we are friends," a manager said, "I'm spending too much of my time doing things that he should be doing." Such an approach is damaging to the manager, the subordinate, the other members of the department and, eventually, to the friendship.

When evaluating friends, effective managers base reviews and raises on impersonal objective data.

Relationships with friends and friends' families off the job should exclude any communication about company business. When the friend brings up company business, try to respond with something like, "Oh, let's leave that at the office."

In reality, it is very difficult, although not impossible, for most families to remain close friends when one person works for another. And when either the subordinate or the manager performs poorly, it will surely test the friendship.

If the manager accepts poor performance from a friend, it damages the effectiveness of the total department and, as a result, the future career of the manager. And to modify an old saying, "This is not what friends are for."

Management quiz

Check all of the following statements that you agree with. When evaluating a friend, managers should:

1. Be more demanding of the friend.

2. Disregard what other department members might think.

3. Give the friend the benefit of the doubt.

4. Consider the friend's off-the-job value to your family.

5. Evaluate the friend exactly like other workers.

6. Value the friendship more than departmental effectiveness.

7. Friends are valuable; preserve the friendship at all costs.

8. Accept the fact that your relationship may change.

9. Accept the fact that your friend may use you a bit.

10. Not allow privileges based on friendship.

Although some may disagree, "agree" is the more correct response for numbers 5, 8, and 10. "Disagree" is more correct for the remainder. If you missed three or more, you may wish to reconsider how you treat your friend at work.

Gerald Graham is a professor at Wichita State University and a management consultant. Send questions to the Wichita Eagle, P.O. Box 820, Wichita, Kan. 67201.

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