Have you ever had to supervise your friends?

  1. 1
    I've recently had to train and supervise two of my friends at work. I thought it would be great having my mates working with me but it has turned out to be a 12 week nightmare.

    For example, they need supervision as they are inexperienced and as the CN I have to make sure they are following best practice. When I correct them on something, they automatically get all defensive about it and argue with me. This has never happened with other nurses who I don't socialise with. It's not about it being 'my way or the high way' it's about best practice. For example, if you deliberately put a plastic tip from a hypodermic needle on top of an open sponge sitting on the patient during a laparotomy, chances are it will end up in the patient. I tell this person to remove it immediately and get told 'it's ok I know it's there'.........GRRRRRRRRRRRR

    I also feel bad because one of my friends well just seem to be getting it. I may have to write 'lacks forward thinking' and 'needs to improve situational awareness'. The suction bottle will always explode because they never keep an eye on it, they stand there all dreamlike and seem to have no idea what's going on, they need to be constantly prompted to do things. It's not that they want to be lazy but they just don't seem to be able to prioritse very well.

    I've already had one friendship end because I've had to speak to them about their behaviour, they kept arguing with me and it got the point where I had to remind them that at work i'm not their buddy, I'm their to supervise them .

    Anyway that's my vent over with. Has anyone else here been in a similar situation where they have had to supervise their friends? Has it worked well, or like me been a constant challenge? I don't want to keep losing friendships, but I'm tired of feeling walked all over.
    Last edit by Scrubby on Aug 20, '09
    TrishJK likes this.
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  4. 12 Comments so far...

  5. 1
    The situation is a very difficult one in which to win, or even break even.

    Pretty much two things can happen, both lousy: First, you have to bring shortcomings to the attention of your friends, with the resultant resentment/defensiveness. Or,

    Your friend does very well, and others say the reason s/he gets glowing reports from you is because you're friends.

    You can't win for losing, generally.

    It's the situation that stinks, not your skills as a trainer/supervisor.

    Any way you can decline to take on the teaching task with friends? I would think good management would listen to and respond to what are very genuine concerns on your part.
    TrishJK likes this.
  6. 0
    Poor you, Scrubby. Bummer and a half. how did you land yourself in this fine mess? I agree with the other poster. Surely you can get out of this awful supervising-of-soon-to-be-ex-friends job?

    Good luck
    Trish
  7. 2
    You need to take a basic management course and you should get yourself a couple of basic management books on how to manage people. Next, you should meet with all the people you have to supervise and tell them all up front that you have your work life and your outside life. At work, you have professional relationships and as such everyone is held to the same standard no matter what. And then, you have to be able to demonstrate that you can carry out this standard. In my career as a manager I have had to fire 3 of my friends. It was hard, but it had to be done. Two of them caused severe harm to a patient and there was no other choice. One was fired for repeated diversion of narcotics after failure in her drug treatment program. And always remember, you do not make people make the choices they make, they make their own mistakes, they make their own choices. When you get into a room to council them, to talk about a problem, when they try to distract you by "well so-in -so does it and you never talk to them" or something else similar, redirect them by saying "we are not here to talk about _____. We are here to talk about you. If they try to blame you, your standard answer is: We are not here to talk about me. We are here to talk about you. If you are unhappy with me you can talk to my manager but right now we are going to talk about what you did. When it is a he said/ she said situation, put them in a room together and hash it out. Do take the word of one over the other. Put them in a room together and see what comes out. When people don't get along I don't play with them. We sit there until we come to some kind of agreement or they both get suspended. Remember you are not there to be liked by everyone. But you should be respected. And you will be as long as you are up front, tell the truth and follow through with what you say you will do. If you say you are going to suspend someone if they do X again, then do it. And PLEASE DOCUMENT everything you do or say to anyone and give them a copy. When an employee gives you a request, verbal or in writing, send them a response in writing and keep a copy in the file of your decision and what you did about the problem with a copy of their note attached. Believe me, this went a long way in keeping my butt out of hot water a lot of times. You cannot keep too much documentation with regard to employee interactions.
    Scrubby and TrishJK like this.
  8. 1
    I'm so sorry you are going through this. I'm in prenursing, so I've never had to supervise a friend in this field, but I have in other jobs and professional settings. In my opinion, from what you've said, it sounds like you are doing the only thing you can do, short of what the first poster suggested - stepping down from training those with whom which you have this conflict of interest. From what I understand and have read about nursing, that may not be a solution for you, as often times in these settings there aren't always others in line to take over for you - a reason for which you are likely training these people. You may have to weigh your options.

    Truly though, while it really feels awful to have a friend displeased with you, I think you are doing the right thing. Nursing isn't like any other job, your mistakes could effect the life and health of another person. It is critical that these people understand they are to follow your direction, and if they expect a break from you, then they are without a doubt taking advantage of you. I don't want to sound cold as an outsider looking in, but I say, if these people don't respect your position, and sympathize to some extent where you are coming from, then they are not friends worth having when push comes to shove. Friends come and go, but your job and reputation that you've spent time and money building cannot so easily be replaced. I say, do what you think and know is right, and if they are your friends they will still be there when all is said and done.

    Good luck to you - I hope you will share with us what you decide to do and how it goes for you.
    Scrubby likes this.
  9. 1
    Yes and unfortunately I ran into some of the same problems you have. They are good at what they do but the minute you point out a mistake or shortcoming, oh boy!
    Scrubby likes this.
  10. 2
    Like a previous poster, I'm still in school so I have never supervised friends in nursing. However, I was in the military for 10 years and supervised many friends during that time. In the military when you supervise someone, you're their mommy and daddy, as you are responsible for everything down to how they dress and their level of personal hygiene, how well they clean their room, etc., not simply professional issues. The number one thing in my experience that helped keep things from getting ugly was to explain to anyone I supervised that if someone I supervise makes a mistake, I pay for it as much as, if not more than they do. For those who were actually friends, and not people simply hoping our "friendship" would benefit them, this was enough to make them not only accept my supervision, but even apologize if they made a mistake, as they understood it affected me as well. Another thing that helped for me was instead of telling people to do things, I would ask. Those I supervised understood that although I phrased it as a request, it was an order. However phrasing it as a request seems so much more polite, even requests to do things no one wanted to do, were done with much less complaining. For the latter to work however, it must be clear that you are phrasing things as requests to be polite and show respect, not because the request can be refused.

    As with others, I agree that if someone really refuses to your side of such a difficult situation, then they are not truly your friend. It doesn't mean feelings will never be hurt, but real friends will be willing to talk about it, and then put it behind them, not hold a grudge.

    Good luck, I hope things get better for you and go more smoothly!
    Scrubby and TrishJK like this.
  11. 2
    As you can see from the reponding posts, this situation is not unheard of. That is why companies have policies about supervising family members and often discourage managers from being "too friendly" with their employees.

    Another point: Seeing your friends in a different light gives you reason to question some of the stuff they might have told you in the past, doesn't it? When they say/said that their last boss was "so mean" or "unfair," etc. you can now see that the problem might have been with their performance and not the fault of the manager. That's a valuable lesson to learn. Just because we "like" certain people, doesn't mean we can believe everything they say when they complain about how mean their teachers or managers are. It's important to keep that in mind when reading posts here on allnurses.
    Scrubby and TrishJK like this.
  12. 1
    Sorry to hear this Scrubby. Yes I have had to supervise many of my friends in the past. While it definitely can be tricky, I have never had (yet) the situation that you have. My last 4 positions have been as a DON and I have always 'recruited' the nurses that I trust and all have been friends. I have had to 'speak' to them about many issues. I have even had to 'write up' one of them with 15 years experience on me...it was hard...she cried, I tried very, very hard not to. In the end, it was clear that just my 'speaking to her' had no effect. She initially threatened to quit but over the weekend (and after I explained to her that I had asked her several times about this same issue to which probable because we were friends, she did not take seriously) she came to me and apologized. We never did have to have the discussion about the difference of me being at work as the boss vs when we socialize. I don't need to be the boss all the time and quite frankly, all the women that I socialize with are very strong women, and being a DON is soooo demanding (on top of being a single mother of 3), that when we socialize I GLADLY can defer to them. So for us, the issue was never about being in control. They all know that I take my job seriously and don't compromise in my nursing care, so while there, they know that I have the patients, theirs as well as my own interest at heart and that I would never ask them to do what I am not willing to.

    Yes, a hard situation to supervise your friends, but it can work. Don't take it personally, but try to speak to them in private as clearly and professionally as you can (practice with a friend that you don't supervise first) to clear the air rather than let this affect your friendship, job or sanity!

    Best of luck Scrubby.
    Scrubby likes this.
  13. 2
    It's been my experience that people can forgive just about anything and anyone........except a friend who rises from the ranks.:stone

    Years ago I was a CNA in a hospital, where I returned to work sometime after becoming an RN. Suddenly I was in a position of authority over people with whom I'd been buddies, and boy did they challenge me! The first few weeks were hell---they didn't want to take direction from me, so they'd make themselves scarce when I needed their help, 'forget' to take vitals on my post-op patients, or outright say "No" whenever I asked them to do something.

    Thankfully, I was savvy enough to know what was going on, and I gently persisted in encouraging the aides to accept me as a nurse. I was kind but firm, and over the next few months I took each one aside individually to let them know that I wanted to work with them as a team much like we always had; but like it or not, I was their immediate supervisor, and thus had a right to expect cooperation. I got it, too. It took time, but they figured out that I was not on a power trip and thus they had nothing to rebel against.

    I don't know if this story will be of help to you, but thought I'd offer it because I have been there and done that, and I know that becoming the boss tends to do horrid things to friendships. Good luck to you!
    Scrubby and LockportRN like this.


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