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I got my friend hired, and that was a mistake. Now how do I fire him?

  • Author: Lynne Curry
    | The Workplace
  • Updated: January 22, 2018
  • Published October 30, 2017

Q: I've known "John" since fifth grade. He had career success in his 20s, but it's been downhill for him ever since. Recently, he got laid off, let me know he had almost no money and would do "anything." A couple weeks later when my company needed someone to replace one of my entry-level employees who unexpectedly quit, I gave John's name to our HR department. He got hired on my recommendation.

I thought it would work but John hated that I supervised him, and soon I hated it as well. It took John three times as long as any other employee to complete each task because he used cumbersome methods. Because I wanted him to succeed, I made a couple of suggestions. He reacted like I'd stabbed him in the heart and told me that his methods worked and "who was I to say?"

It dawned on me then that John was used to being the dominant individual in our friendship. In the month that followed, John not only critiqued me, he seemed to want to draw blood. For example, when I returned to the department after a weeklong business trip, he told me his favorite week since he'd been hired had been the week I was gone. He also never picked up speed. Others in the department began to view him as a problem hire. This morning my manager asked, "Are you going to fire him or do I need to do it?"

How do you fire a friend?

A: You realize that you're not firing John, he's firing himself. You may now know why things have gone downhill for him since his 20s. He appears to sing "You're not the boss of me."

John has clearly let you know he can't handle your coaching or role as his supervisor. Make his firing as respectful as possible. You might say, "This isn't working out for you or us." If he asks why, respond briefly that it's a situation of "job fit," but don't get drawn into an argument. John appears to be someone who needs to "win," and the more dignity you give him the better.

Q: My coworker has a bad habit of opening her mouth and letting angry words fly. Recently, she ripped into our mutual supervisor in front of me. Our supervisor seemed taken by surprise but maintained her cool and handled the situation professionally.

Afterward, my coworker asked me what I thought. I think she expected me to ask why she'd said what she had. I didn't. I felt she was trying to pull me into her private battle with our supervisor. When she continued to press me, I told her I didn't like how she'd lashed out at our supervisor in front of me. She got defensive, told me I apparently can't handle people who talk directly, "can't be trusted," am "not worthy" of her friendship, and that I'm to blame if our supervisor now treats her poorly. What do I do?

A: Your coworker appears able to dish it out but not take it. When she slammed your supervisor in front of you, she wanted you to join in or at least be interested afterward. When you didn't and instead called her on her behavior, she mentally moved you into the enemy camp.

What she fails to understand is that her words, calculated to hurt your supervisor and now you, instead harm her relationships with each of you. Take a page from your supervisor's rule book, and handle the situation professionally. Shake her words off.

If this situation continues to fester, you'll need to take action, but for now, leave it alone. You appear to be a bit player in your coworker's drama with your supervisor.

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