Q: I recently became friends with one of my employees, and we started doing things together outside the office. Before long, "John" began to slack off and pay less attention to his work. When I wrote him up for poor performance, he became very rude.
Now John completely ignores my authority and even shares confidential information about me with others. I feel as though I have to walk on egg shells around him. How can I fix this?
A: You must be a fairly new manager, because you have violated three fundamental rules of supervision. First, you cannot be close personal friends with your employees. As the one who evaluates their performance, you need to maintain some professional distance.
Second, you should never "write someone up" until you have attempted to correct the problem through constructive feedback and coaching. And third, you do not share private information that you don't want repeated.
To restore proper managerial order, you should advise your boss of this lapse in judgment and ask for help in rectifying the situation.
For example: "I recently made the mistake of developing a friendship with John outside of work. As a result, he no longer seems to view me as his supervisor. When I brought up some performance issues, he completely ignored my feedback. However, if you and I talk with him together, I believe that will get his attention."
In the meeting with John, explain your concerns about his work, then state your intention to put recent events behind you. Your manager should reinforce these comments and remind John that you are the one who will be doing his performance appraisal.
After that, you must revert to treating John as you would any other employee, having learned the hard way that you can't be both a buddy and a boss.
Ask manager for specific duties
Q: I am an administrative assistant to my manager, who is constantly coming to me with questions and little tasks. These interruptions make it hard to concentrate on my work. When she asks me to phone someone or find something for her, I lose my focus. How can I get her to stop bothering me?
A: If you continue to be irritated by your boss' requests, you may soon have bigger problems. By definition, administrative assistant positions exist to support someone else, so frequent interruptions typically go with the territory.
That said, however, your manager certainly owes you the courtesy of being clear about expectations. If she has assigned you projects, but interrupts so frequently that you can't complete them, then you need to clarify her priorities.
For example: "I would be glad to schedule the job interviews and install the new software on your laptop. However, that might keep me from finishing the budget report this afternoon. What should I focus on first?"
Asking for a daily list of tasks might also help to reduce the interruptions. But if distractions generally drive you bonkers, a more project-oriented position may be a better match for your personality.
Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach and the author of "Secrets to Winning at Office Politics."