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Career Q&A: Friendship frays when pal becomes colleague

Q: Ever since a close friend helped me get a job in her office, our relationship hasn't been the same. "Christie" frequently reminds me about deadlines and reviews my work for errors. But if I ask her to show me how to do certain tasks, she says I'll learn faster by figuring it out myself.

Christie agreed to train me on our proprietary software, but her presence makes me nervous. If I screw up, she makes comments like "it's not difficult" or "just look in your notes." These remarks are very annoying. I don't want to lose our friendship, so how should I handle this?

A: When friends turn into co-workers, tensions often arise. While friendship is a voluntary association, co-workers have required interactions that may create conflicting expectations. In this case, not only do you and Christie have different views of her role, but you seem unable to decide just how much help you want.

You get annoyed when Christie offers unsolicited advice, but you're also irritated when she fails to respond to requests for assistance. You would like her help in learning the software, but resent her comments about your performance. Actually, you appear to bothered by almost everything she does.

Although Christie might be a bit overzealous, odds are that the real source of your discomfort is a sudden downgrade in status.

Previously, you and your friend had a relationship of equals, but Christie's job knowledge has temporarily placed her in a superior position. This unexpected shift is understandably disconcerting.

The good news is that this problem should gradually resolve itself as you gain more experience. But until you're ready to fly solo, the best way to preserve your friendship is to cut Christie a little slack. Otherwise, resentment and frustration will inevitably drive you apart.

Focus on problems, not poor review

Q: After 18 months with this company, I just had my first performance review. Because I have more than 20 years' experience in my field, I was extremely disappointed to be rated "needs improvement" in several categories. I suspect this review was only done because of some recent challenges with difficult projects.

According to company policy, new employees should be evaluated after 90 days, and everyone should receive an annual appraisal. My boss previously told me that he had no time for these reviews. Should I have been more persistent in asking for an earlier evaluation?

A: People naturally avoid discussions that may invite criticism, but it's always good to know what the boss is thinking. Since managers often fail to share their opinions about job performance, soliciting feedback can help to prevent unpleasant surprises. In retrospect, therefore, requesting those interim reviews would have been a wise move.

Nevertheless, the fault in this situation clearly lies with your boss, because he's the one responsible for following the appraisal policy. So if you're under any threat of disciplinary action, you should discuss this matter with human resources. But if not, just forget about the blame game and focus on fixing the problems with your projects.

Relative may not be the best co-worker

Q: My manager has assigned me to work with a difficult person who happens to be my cousin. "Andy" comes in late, takes frequent smoke breaks and makes a lot of errors. I believe he is taking advantage of our relationship, so I would like my boss to pair me with a different co-worker. How should I approach him about this?

A: To keep your manager from dismissing these concerns as a family feud, you must be careful to focus on the business issues.

For example: "In working with Andy, I have found that he wastes a lot of time and doesn't seem to care about quality. Because we're cousins, he ignores my feedback and expects me to tolerate his goofing off. I believe Andy might work harder with a different partner, so I wondered if you would consider changing our assignments."

Hopefully, your boss will see the logic in this proposal. But if you and your cousin remain together, just focus on your own work and don't cover for him. If he continues his slacker ways, Andy's tenure is likely to be brief.

Career Q&A: Friendship frays when pal becomes colleague

12/09/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 11, 2013 6:22pm]

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