It is important to establish a professional boundary with your friend at work, says Sanjana Ray.
Illustration: Dominic Xavier/Rediff.com
While we are encouraged to harbour a dazzling team spirit and maintain good relationships with everyone we work with, it's time we understand the difference between being 'friends' and being 'professional friends'.
When it comes to the former, the friendship expands to the world outside the office space and we take a personal interest in the concerned person beyond their desk life. And while most of the time this works as a bonus for both parties involved, it could also lead to a potentially unpleasant situation, if you have to fire them.
As a manager, you need to realise that whether you ask an old friend to come on board with your company or later become inseparable with someone on your existing team, you need to keep a professional distinction between the two relationships. At the same time, you need to establish a professional boundary as well and ensure that your friend is aware of the same.
The reason for this cautionary tone is because in several instances, you may be placed in the difficult position of having to fire your friend. This could be because he or she is slacking or does not carry out their responsibilities adequately. It could also hold the possibility of him or her thinking that they have a green pass considering you, as their manager, are their friend and will thus overlook a few casualties.
However, you have to keep in mind that if the work isn't being done the way it is supposed to, then you aren't doing your job if you allow things to continue this way.
To this end, difficult and awkward as it may be, you have to be the one asking your friend to leave, even if it is at the risk of your friendship. However, there are a few direct measures you should employ when you call him or her into your office to break the bad news. In this way, you could part ways professionally but still remain tight outside the doors of your office-building.
Meet in professional surroundings
One of the first things you need to ensure is that this meeting takes place within the office-grounds. It is unethical if you think that breaking the news over lunch somewhere will make the sting a little better. This isn't a break-up.
As a manger, you need to ask your employee to step into your office and inform them of their job termination, just like you would for any other employee occupying the same position.
Don't give false promises
Do not give in to your guilt and make promises that you can't keep. Don't tell him you will give him a second chance if you know that nothing good can come out of it.
If you're offering to write him a recommendation for his next job, make sure that it is something you really want to do as a manager, and not as a friend who feels like she owes him an apology or remittance value.
Be clear with him from the very beginning, tell him that as hard as it is for him to hear, it is equally hard for you to fire him but that it is something you are doing as a manger looking out for her company, not as a friend.
Don't hold back on the reason
The first question that will be thrown your way in this conversation is, why? Nobody like losing their jobs and your friend may try to appeal to you on the basis of your personal relationship to give him or her another chance.
However, you need to be firm with him or her and put forth the very real reasons why he or she is not a good fit for the company and thus why you were compelled to take this difficult decision. Do not hold back on these reasons in fear of offending your friend. After all, it will only help them in the longer run.
Show the way forward
Finally, help them to the best of your professional ability. Ask them if they wish for constructive feedback, pointers on how they can change their game-plan for the next company, recommendations, or any other way you can help them, as long as it comes from a manger and not a friend looking to make amends.
Outside office, ensure that you put across the fact that as a friend you will help him or her every step along the way to looking for a new job. But within the parameters of the office building, your priority is the company first and your friend later.