A supervisor's friendship with an employee backfires. Now what?

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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 eggshells 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.

Submit questions to Marie G. McIntyre at yourofficecoach.com.