Managing your Friends
Relationships in hospitality are unique and can be complex. In other businesses people tend to keep work and personal lives separate. In bars and restaurants people tend to see an overlap between their work and personal life. They believe that good relationships are vital to meeting business objectives, and that their relationships with others will be the same, whether they are at work or meeting socially. People spend time outside work hours with colleagues and clients. As a consequence, many of us are in a situation where we are managing not only our friends but our siblings, our parents, our children, our housemates, our partners, and this one’s particularly tricky, our ex-partners.
Managing our friends isn’t just about technique. Rather, it’s about the endlessly changing dynamic of oneself with other people in a set of circumstances. Doing this with skill and confidence is about who you are as well as how you do it.
Our research here at Watershed points clearly to the idea that our greatest single reference as managers is how we were parented. What they valued, what they considered fair, considered a risk, a challenge, a good relationship. Not just birth parents but adopted parent, church leader, that special teacher – any significant adult who helped us interpret the world.
So, it’s no wonder that asking anyone that we care about to raise their performance can be a challenge. Especially with Mum or Dad sitting there on our shoulder playing ‘tape recordings’ of the past into our subconscious and feeding us subliminal scripts.
The trick is to turn this internal child state into a genuine adult state. In this mode we are interested, practical, rational, and creatively resourceful. Say to yourself: What is actually happening? Cut out any emotional triggers that you may be encountering. What are the facts?
With this in mind we are better able to coach, to offer feedback, to consult, to train, to give instruction, to ask for help. We assume resourcefulness in both ourselves, and others. To quote the great Thomas Harris: I’m OK, You’re OK
A good way to test this new you is to say no. Especially if, like most of us in a business which likes saying yes, you find it hard to say no. Having to say no gets to the heart of why some people find it difficult to be assertive.
Typical ‘no’ situations might be
Do any of these thoughts occur to you when you have to say ‘no’?
If you can’t say ‘no’ when it is perfectly legitimate to do so, you run the risk of being exploited by others. Ultimately, you may become so fed up with being considered a doormat that you have occasional outbursts where you resort to aggressiveness – all the pent up anger suddenly breaks out.
A protocol for saying No
I can understand why you want to go out tonight because you’ve been working so hard. You need a bit of light relief.
I don’t want to go out tonight, I’d rather stay here.
I feel really tired, and I’ve had a really difficult day and I just haven’t got the energy to get changed, get the bus to the restaurant etc. The idea of staying in front of the TV appeals much more.
I wonder if we could go out tomorrow instead, or maybe x or y would like to go with you if you’re really keen to go tonight?
This formula works even when you have to use it with someone who is more senior than you. Suppose your boss has asked you to take on an extra project. You are already very busy. Here’s how it would work:
I can see it’s very important to get this project done, but I can’t take it on now. (You acknowledge the validity of the request)
I’m already over-stretched on my existing work – I’m having to stay late every night just to get that done. I feel I’m slicing myself so thin I know I’ll start making mistakes if I take on any more. (You explain why you can’t say yes).
My suggestion would be postpone the start of the work. If it could wait for three weeks I could take it on with pleasure. (You show willingness to solve the problem by suggesting an alternative)
How does that seem? (You ask for their feedback)
So, if the hardest part of managing your friends is saying no to them – then give no a go. We continue to be friendly but not to need their friendship: Management and leadership a being as well as a doing activity.