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When a friendship threatens professionalism

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in Workplace Communication

Q. My boss has built a friendship with one of our new employees. They do stuff outside of work together. I feel my boss has lost her ability to be objective about this employee. On several occasions I have pointed out to my boss when this employee has abused company policy or not performed up to standards. She agrees that this behavior cannot continue, but nothing changes. I doubt she’s even discussing it with the employee. What can I do?

A. Why let your boss’s friendship with this employee affect you? If this worker is breaking company policy or otherwise failing to meet minimal standards of performance, it’ll show in time. And your boss will ultimately look bad for not repairing the damage earlier.

But that doesn’t mean you should sit and wait for the day when justice prevails. Put your concerns in writing, listing all the reasons you think the friendship interferes with production or efficiency. Then have a trusted third party read your memo, applying this test: Are the concerns truly important? Do they affect the bottom line? Or are they relatively minor issues that involve personality clashes rather than substantive business or operational matters?

If both you and your cohort firmly agree that you’ve uncovered plenty of instances of problems, then discuss the issues with your boss one last time. If you see no immediate results, then submit the memo to your boss and your boss’s boss. If you maintain an unbiased tone and focus on quantifiable facts, then you won’t appear jealous and you can’t be found guilty of launching a personal attack.

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