I work with a friend who I really like, but I’m finding that his work habits are really irritating me. He never seems to make deadlines and is a really bad project manager. He always wants to say yes and completely over-promises and extremely under-delivers. It really gets under my skin! What’s the best way to stop this from making me completely crazy – especially because he’s my friend and I don’t want to completely ruin that.
Irritated at the Office
Conflict with coworkers in the worst. We spend the majority of our time with these people, and with different personality types and work styles, we are going to get irritated with them sometimes. Add in the sensitivity of the fact that he is your friend, and I understand why this is weighing on your mind.
When you are frustrated with a situation, you have two options: do something about it, or let it go. In this case, both might work. In reality, you only have control over yourself, which you seem to know because you did not write in asking me how to make your coworker a more organized and efficient worker, but how to stop yourself from going nuts over it. However, just because you cannot control his actions, doesn’t mean that you can’t do something to at least feel like the problem is being addressed. I will suggest a couple of things you can do that may help, but if neither sounds applicable, just skip to the last and most important step.
The first thing you can do is give your friend feedback about his work, but be careful about how you do so. When working with friends, it can be easy for criticism to get personal because, after all, you have a personal relationship with them. This might make you avoid constructive criticism. However, feedback is important for any type of work, and it could be especially valuable coming from someone he respects. If you find that your friendship makes you hesitate to say anything when he does something wrong, whether because you are worried you will be too visibly frustrated or you don’t want to hurt his feelings, it might help to write it down first. If you are about to go into a meeting with him where you will have to address something he messed up, write a couple bullet points about what you would want to say to him. Adjust it for maximum diplomacy and professionalism, then go into the meeting and let him know what he is doing well, and what he could improve.
However, if you are not in a position where it would be appropriate for you to give you feedback like that, you might try a more roundabout way. Talk to your boss about having everyone in the office do a personality test and strengths and weaknesses assessment. This could be helpful for everyone, and it could cause your friend to either realize for himself what he needs to improve or give your boss the insight necessary to give him feedback. It might also help you more clearly recognize the strengths he brings to the table, and have a greater understanding of why he works the way he does. If your boss isn’t into the idea, you could try taking an assessment yourself and bringing it up in conversation with him. He may be intrigued enough to take it himself, or at minimum, it could get him thinking about his own strengths and weaknesses.
Again, these steps may do nothing to improve his work ethic; the purpose of doing something about it is for your own peace of mind, and you shouldn’t expect him to change. That is why the most important step is the last step: let it go. Things drive us crazy because we don’t stop thinking about them. Give this situation less real estate in your mind. When you find yourself thinking about what a crappy project manager he is, match that thought with something you really admire about him. If you find yourself getting very frustrated with the quality of his work, take a break to cool down; meditate, take a walk, or call a friend to shift your focus. At the end of the day, all you can do is do your own good work. Maybe your friend will learn by your example; maybe not. Either way, you have done your best. Keep focus and don’t let things out of your control distract you from what is really important to you. Good luck!