The Business Coach with Laura Murphy “My friend’s not right for the job...”

Q. I’m encouraging existing staff to transfer into my team and a good friend and colleague wants to apply. I know that she’s not right for the job but how do I tell her that without ruining our working relationship and friendship? Peter

A. So, not only are you thwarting her career plans but also potentially souring your relationship. You’ve already made a decision here but on what grounds? Unwrap your feelings about this and be frank. Is it that her skills or experience aren’t suitable or that you don’t want a good friend joining your team and destabilising the power and positioning relationship you have established?

If it’s her skills and experience then, assuming your application processes are fair and transparent, her weaknesses compared to other candidates will be identified. There will be a clear “not this time” message and it won’t jeopardise your relationship. In fact, if you then help her build on her strengths so she can access other, more appropriate, opportunities it could be enhanced.

If it’s the threat to your position that’s the problem then you should think through why that’s the case. List the reasons and challenge each one to see if it’s valid and how it can be addressed. We have different personas in and out of work and it takes a highly skilled manager to be able to set the ground rules and manage staff with whom they have a close friendship. It might be that you identify your own skills failing in this regard so be honest with her about that, and the possible consequences to your relationships and the team if she joins. If she’s still serious about applying, it’s crucial that you have a clear agreement as to how you will work together.


Laura Murphy is the founder of mtc2 ltd, a management consultancy, training and coaching company.  Laura is an organisation development specialist and business coach.  If you have a problem then contact her at Names and details have been changed to protect confidentiality.

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