I was talking to someone who’s a supervisor at a local company. This person told me it was employee evaluations time, and 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 previously 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 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 evaluations. I asked if any of these people knew that their performance was lacking during the year, and she said probably not. Those were problems 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 these employees were her friends, rather than co-workers and people she was responsible for, 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 she had the backbone to evaluate them accurately now, but she'd set herself up for a bad time. She should have had regular meetings with these all of her employees, informing them of their present performance, and give those who needed it the opportunity to improve or possibly have to be let go.

For the other two problems, she'd 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.

In the workplace it's a different story. Not that managers can’t be friendly with employees, but they can step over the line to a degree where it impedes what they’re hoping to accomplish. How can they effectively do your job as a manager if they’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 personal 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 job, there are boundaries you shouldn’t cross because they could get you into difficult situations, let alone 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?

RoyalAnwar via Pixabay

To be an effective manager, you have to maintain a certain amount of consistency and separation. 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 good of bad information at all times, and not be afraid to come to you with issues. If they are, you’ll never learn everything that needs to be corrected.

On the other hand, you can’t afford to allow yourself to be frozen by fear over someone’s reaction. There’s 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. 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.

Then she'd have had a mental file of how each person was going to react to potential bad news. If she'd also 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, employees might not be as upset because they'd not only know how you'd inform them, but also knew you were going to educate them.

Most employees know whether they’re doing a good job or not. Many managers think all employees think they’re the best worker in the department. Yet, studies have shown that when you give the employee a tool to evaluate themselves, they're usually harder on themselves than the supervisor. There are always those who believe they’re great 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 and direct, yet helpful and not condescending. If you need to tell truths that aren't celebratory, you need to learn how to choose your words carefully to help diffuse the situation. 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; hopefully that’s your intention.

Here are “9” things to consider if you’re going to be an effective manager:

1. Be friendly, but not friends

2. Talk to your employees often about performance, good or bad

3. Be honest, but not brutal

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

5. Balance negative with positive

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

7. Pay attention to employee reactions and remember them

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

9. Remember who’s in charge; you