Can I fire my best friend without ruining our relationship?

Wednesday March 18 2020

Q: I have been working in the same organisation for three years, and I recently got a promotion. I have close friends at work, and our relationship flourished even after my promotion. However, my seniors have asked me to fire one of them since she is not meeting her objectives. How do I go about this bearing in mind that I don’t want to lose her friendship?

Welcome to management, it’s not always a walk in the park. You are likely to be less popular now because you will be required to take difficult actions on behalf of the organisation. Performance is affected by many factors and therefore, it is important to understand the challenges your colleague is going through. You should also tread carefully so that you don’t hurt your friend’s career. Additionally, you must make an informed decision, otherwise you will lose respect as a manager.

Request your supervisor to give you time to make an independent assessment on the performance of the individual, preferably over a period of three months. Discuss the objectives that have been laid down for her, and ensure that they are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time bound. If she is unable to meet them after the specified period, discuss a remedial plan, perhaps through a performance improvement plan. You might find out that she only requires guidance and support. Give her the benefit of doubt.

As a manager, you cannot satisfy or please everyone. However, you can treat staff the same way you expect your supervisor to treat you.  Be fair but firm, and treat your subordinates with respect. Part of management is to make tough decisions, and dealing effectively with employees requires high standards of professionalism. You may need to limit your social interaction with them, especially in terms of activities done outside the office. If your interactions with your friends hamper your output, remember that your primary reason for being in that organisation is to deliver on your objectives, while maintaining professionalism and treating others with respect.

Have clearly defined boundaries and separate work from pleasure at all times. Your former colleague must understand that you have a role to play and if she is truly genuine, she will offer the support you need to succeed, including meeting her objectives.

Always keep in mind that your friend might be promoted in future. Therefore, treat your former peers the same way you would like to be treated if any of them was to become your supervisor.


Jane Muiruri - Senior HR Manager, Nation Media Group; [email protected]