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Coming under friendly fire

Managing friends

I have recently been promoted and am now the line manager of several colleagues. These include someone I have long considered a friend - we first met at university - but who is now creating a lot of problems for me. Not only is he surly and uncooperative - often in front of other colleagues - but he also takes advantage of our relationship, arriving late for work, leaving early and offering the most feeble of excuses when pressed for an explanation. What can I do? (Name and address withheld).

Geoff Hughes, group training manager, Costain Group, says: 'Do not assume his behaviour is connected with your promotion.

If he was a committed, diligent worker before, and is now surly and unco-operative, there may be an underlying reason which you do not know about. Get some advice - and an objective second opinion. You could seek out a manager in the organisation with more experience and who you respect, have a talk with them, tell them the situation and see what they advise. A friendly chat with your team member could be the solution - but do listen to what they have to say. It could be that your own behaviour is a contributing factor - maybe you come across as pompous without realising it, for instance.

'Approaching your HR or training department asking for training or support is another good idea. Becoming a manager does mean changing your style.

You cannot be friendly in the same way and have to see the bigger picture. Even so, you can adopt a listening style, keep your door open and talk to your staff about their career development.

Show that you value their ideas and are not disempowering them by making all the decisions for them. It is hard taking over as a manager of people you already know as peers, but if you treat them fairly, they will learn to respect you.'

Sue Morris, employment law helpline advisor at the Industrial Society, writes: 'Try to avoid being heavy handed at this stage. I suggest having a private, informal chat with this person.

Explain your concerns and the effects his actions are having on the team and perhaps refer to his previously good record on attendance and so on.

'Resolving the issue may take several informal chats, but it is certainly worth trying before even considering disciplinary action. However, during these chats, make sure you have the facts, if discussing lateness, for example.

Also make sure other members of the team are not doing similar things.'

Imogen Daniels, an advisor with the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development (CIPD) advises: 'You will often find colleagues will try to test your authority as a new manager to see how you cope. Do not be afraid to be tough. Whether this person is a friend or not, he still needs a manager to guide and support him.

'It sounds as if you have started off your new job by being nice and your friend is exploiting this. Managers do need to be strong and decisive and you have to do your job properly, even if it makes you feel uncomfortable.

'The best thing is to get it out in the open, but privately. Take your colleague aside and make it clear to him that there will be times when you have to make tough decisions, it is your job to make them and your work has to take priority. You can still be yourself outside work, but your manager's role has to come first.'

For more guidance, get hold of the CIPD book Managing for the First Time (£5.95) CIPD tel: 0208 2633387 www. cipd. co. uk Industrial Society (020) 7479 1000.

Key points Difficulties can arise when a member of a peer group takes a management post New managers should not interpret the first sign of a problem as a personal attack Difficulties should be dealt with informally at first New responsibilities may require tough action but you can still be yourself outside work

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