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Friend or Flake?

20 Apr 2022 10:30 AM | Anonymous

Dear Sophia,

I have a colleague who I have a lovely rapport with and who I like a lot on a personal level. She believes we are good office friends and confidants. However she is constantly not getting her job done and overlooks things that need doing, as well as saying she will do things and then consistently forgetting. Her follow-through is really terrible and it is frustrating working with her and relying on her for things. She is in a senior role and others notice it as well, but my company does not ever assess people honestly. I feel I cannot speak to her about this but am unsure what to do.

Sincerely, 

Seeking Solutions

Dear Seeking Solutions,

I am glad that you get along well with your colleague. You’ve highlighted her obvious shortcomings, but the fact that you have strong rapport with her should help you give candid feedback that will help you to continue working with her and stay sane. 

I know you don’t feel as though you can speak to her about what you see with her lack of follow through, but I’d recommend that you give it a go. Feedback is a gift. Trust and psychological safety are essential to a feedback conversation. Without it, the person receiving the feedback is likely to question your intentions. She sees you as a confidant, you already have a good position to give specific feedback with a lower chance that she will take offense. Tell her you’ve noticed a pattern of her not completing her work by agreed upon deadlines or forgetting it all together and ask if everything is OK. If you approach her with concern for her well-being, rather than accusing her of being a flake, she will hopefully open up and explain. Ideally she’ll convey awareness of her issues with time management or keeping on task and remembering what she commits to. Or she may share she is struggling in her personal life in a way that affects her work. Although you may not want to, consider what kind of support or help you can offer her if needed. If she’s not very self-aware or just slacking off, chances are she’ll be embarrassed that you noticed and want to step up, thus declining your help. However, if there is something going on, lend her an ear and see if you can find a solution.

If she gets defensive and claims there is no problem with her follow-through, then you’ll have to decide if the next step will be to speak to a supervisor. It sounds like you don’t have much faith that they’d take meaningful action, so if you do raise the issue be prepared to provide concrete examples of how this is negatively affecting your work and the company, as it will be harder for them to ignore. You didn’t mention if any of your other colleagues have noticed issues. If they have, it may also be useful for them to report these to management—strength in numbers! Then, try not to rely on her for work-related things while you focus on your friendship instead. It’s not impossible to like someone as a person and not appreciate them in a professional setting. I suggest trying to focus on doing your own work and minimizing team work with her. If it becomes clear that you’re doing the work and she isn’t contributing, management may decide to rethink her employment.

If all else fails and nothing changes, do your best to lead by example and make it obvious how valuable strong collaboration and follow-through can be! 

Confidentially Yours,

Sophia

P.S. Now that I’ve shared my thoughts, I’m curious what the amazing community of educators reading this post has to say. Chime in, folks! What thoughts do you have? Share your thoughts on the Global Leadership League’s LinkedIn page. Have a question for Sophia yourself, ask here!

Please note: This response is provided for informational purposes only. The information contained herein is not legal advice and should not be used as a substitute for the legal advice or legal opinions of a licensed professional. Contact a personal attorney or licensed professional to obtain appropriate legal advice or professional counseling with respect to any particular issue or problem.

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