I remember talking to someone who is a supervisor at a local company. This person told me it was time to do employee evaluations, and that she was hesitant because she didn’t know how some people would react to their evaluations; obviously the bad ones. I asked her if she knew these people and she said yes. I asked her if they had reacted badly before to information and she said yes to some, no to others. I then asked her how well she felt she knew these people and she said she thought she knew them all pretty well.

I then turned it around on her and said if she knew some people were going to react badly, how was she expecting to deliver the news. She said she didn’t know. I asked her if she felt she was friends with each of these people or had a professional working relationship with them. She said she considered most of them her friends. That was problem number one.

I then asked her about the people who hadn’t reacted badly to new information before and why she felt they would react badly now. She said she would probably react badly if she were handed the same information that was going to be on their performance evaluations. I asked her if any of these people knew that their performance was lacking during the year, and she said probably not. That was problem number two and three.

The first problem is that she was getting ready to impart bad performance evaluations on people who didn’t see it coming. Because she felt as though these employees were her friends, rather than co-workers, she hadn’t been able to bring herself to tell them that they needed to improve on certain skills throughout the year. It was amazing that she had the backbone now to evaluate them accurately now, but she had set herself up for a bad time. She needed to have regular meetings with these people specifically, informing them of their present performance, and give them the opportunity to improve their status or possibly have to be let go.

In concentrating on the other two problems, however, she had made a classic mistake that many managers and employees make. They assume that just because they work with a group of people on a daily basis, in close quarters, that these people are their friends. Think about how you are with your friends outside of work. You tend to let your guard down, you let small things go without a second thought, and you share emotions and scenarios with each other, knowing it won’t be thrown back in your face.

The payoff at work is a different story, though. Not that a manager can’t be friendly with the employees, but you can step over the line to a degree where it impedes what you’re hoping to accomplish. How can you effectively do your job as a manager if you’re afraid to tell someone when they’re not living up to the performance standards needed to do the job?

There’s something else about your friends. There are boundaries you’d never cross with a friend because you know you don’t want a certain reaction to come back on you. In essence, you share your thoughts with people you probably think won’t tell you to your face whether you’re wrong or not. When it comes to the work, there are boundaries you shouldn’t cross because they could get you into legal trouble. Yet there are times when you might have to address it anyway; are you going to decide not to do it because you’re afraid you’re going to ruin a friendship?

To be an effective manager, you have to maintain a certain amount of consistency. You can’t be friends with everyone one day then be the person in charge the next day. You certainly can’t be friends with one group of people and not friends with another. People should know how you’re going to react to information at all times, and not be afraid to come to you with anything. If they are, you’ll never get everything that needs to be completed finished.

On the other hand, you can’t afford to allow yourself to be frozen by fear over someone’s reaction. There’s actually two issues here; the delivery and the information that needs to be delivered. If this supervisor had already established that she would be the type to tell people what they needed to know, no matter how good or bad it was, then doing the evaluations wouldn’t be a problem at all. Also, if this supervisor had taken off her “friends” hat and been a supervisor who really paid attention to each employee she dealt with, she would have noticed the patterns of each person as to how they react whenever she told them something. She would have then had a mental file so she would know, pretty close to perfect, how each person was going to react. Also, if she had developed a style of imparting bad information so that it didn’t sound as though it was personal, but rather in a casual, business style, the employee wouldn’t have the right to be upset because they not only know how you’re going to tell them, but they probably would already know the type of message that was coming.

Most employees know whether they’re doing a good job or not. Many managers think that all employees think they’re the best worker in the department, but most studies have shown that when you give the employee an evaluation and tell them to evaluate themselves, they’re usually harder on themselves than the supervisor. Sure, there are those few who really think they’re top dog when they’re not, but if you as the supervisor hasn’t told them any different during the year, then why wouldn’t they think that?

You as a manager should have established your “leader speak” the day you started in the position. If you haven’t, you can still learn how to do it. Language needs to be effective, direct, yet helpful and not condescending. If you need to impart bad information, you need to learn how to choose your words carefully to help diffuse the situation. Remember, you treat everyone fairly, not equally. If it’s written, you need to use the most dispassionate language you can think of in describing where an employee is lacking, and ways to help them improve, if that’s your intention.

Here are “8” things to consider if you’re going to be an effective manager:

1. Be friendly, but not friends

2. Be honest, but not brutal

3. Be upfront when there are negative issues, but offer suggestions for improvement

4. Balance negative with positive

5. Be consistent; you’ll usually get back what you put out

6. Pay attention to employee reactions and remember them

7. Use “leader speak” in both written and oral communications

8. Remember who’s in charge; you

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