Your Office Coach: Don’t let friendship get in the way at work

Your Office Coach: Offensive humor is no laughing matter

I’m having trouble adjusting to my new job as the office manager
for a small business. My biggest problem is that one of the
owners,

Emily,

behaves very erratically. Emily is highly emotional, constantly
fluctuating between enthusiastic support and crushing
criticism.
Q:

I’m having trouble adjusting to my new job as the office manager for a small business. My biggest problem is that one of the owners, “Emily,” behaves very erratically. Emily is highly emotional, constantly fluctuating between enthusiastic support and crushing criticism. Sometimes she is encouraging, but at other times she becomes obsessed with insignificant details. She is like this with everyone, including her business partner.

A week ago, I sent Emily an e-mail complaining about her inappropriate behavior. She has yet to reply and has stopped coming into my office. According to her partner, she is “working on a response.”

I got this job because Emily and I have been friends for more than seven years. We have often shared personal problems and helped each other as neighbors. Our relationship is more important to me than this position. I would like to help Emily overcome her emotional instability, because it is making my job much more difficult. What do you advise?

A:

After seven years, Emily’s personality could hardly have come as a complete surprise. The real problem here is that you are trying to mix two very different types of relationships. Emily has been your buddy, but now she is also your boss. Such a power imbalance inevitably changes the nature of any friendship.

Because of these altered circumstances, you need to re-draw your relationship boundaries. For example, you say you want to “help Emily overcome her emotional instability.” But while counseling a friend about personal issues might be helpful, attempting to counsel your boss about personal issues can lead to career suicide.

To make matters worse, you took the coward’s way out by expressing your displeasure through e-mail. Interpersonal problems should never be addressed in writing, because the recipient typically feels attacked and responds in kind, thereby escalating the conflict.

At this point, you need to decide whether you can adjust to being Emily’s employee. If so, stop waiting for an e-mail reply and go talk to her. Explain that the change in your relationship has been a difficult adjustment, but you want to make it work. You may find that this transition has been tough for her as well.

But if continued stress and tension seem unavoidable, begin planning a graceful exit. Otherwise, you could wind up losing both a job and a friend.

Q:

I currently have a boring job located five minutes from my house. However, I’m being considered for a more rewarding position that involves a 40-minute commute in heavy traffic. During the interview, is it OK to ask if I can work from home part of the time?

A:

In an interview, you want to avoid asking any questions that might sound self-serving or increase your chances of being screened out. But once you have a firm offer, you can reasonably request information that will help you decide whether to accept the position. So don’t inquire about telecommuting privileges until you’re sure they want to hire you.

Leave your comments