Hi everyone.

I have been placed in the dubious position of "team lead." My manager has a lot of reports and wants to have the group divided up amongst a few team leads in order to have a layer of the more senior folks screen out some of the management work.

Our duties include coaching, giving feedback, keeping up with project statuses, etc.

Our duties do NOT include hiring or firing (the boss does that), nor are we able to do the performance reviews of our team members.

Here's where the problem comes in to play. I am comfortable giving feedback to all but one of my "not quite a directs." This person is a long-time peer of mine going back 6 years, and we've worked together most of that time. Now this person is on my team, and I frequently find myself unable to get past the lump in my throat to deliver the feedback model when something negative is going on.

I'll give an example. The other day, he snapped at me about having not informed him of something that I only learned of the night before. I snapped back, "I only heard about it at 5pm last night myself, OK?" At the time, I was thinking I should say, "Hey, can I give you some quick feedback? When you snap at me like that, it..."

But I couldn't think of what the consequences were, because being that we are old work-friends, I think maybe there are none? Also reeling through my mind is the absolute certainty that if and when I use the feedback model with this person, I will immediately receive a mirror right back of, "How would you like some feedback?" in a tit-for-tat sibling rivalry sort of way.

So my question is this - how do I give effective feedback, or do I, when I have a long-standing relationship with someone who is usually my ally and confidante but who can also frequently irritate the crap out of me? This person can frequently be very cranky and sort of lash out at the world, but there are personal extenuating circumstances for it, so I'm not entirely judgmental about it since it seems as behavior to remain directed only at me.

Have I simply made a mistake by allowing myself to take on a no authority with responsibility role? Or have I made a mistake by attempting to manage a long-time peer that I am so close to that management speak feels stilted and fake?

I'm really out of my depth here and would appreciate some guidance. The feedback model works great for me otherwise - even with poor performers who require heavy coaching and frequent negative feedback. It feels incredibly uncomfortable with my close working friends who are temporarily "sort-of subordinates."

My DISC is 7-4-1-1 (Results-Oriented). His is unknown, but observations indicate perhaps: 4-2-2-7 (Creative).

Len's picture

I have a similar situation. In a recent reorganization, I took over a new Division that has as its mission the coordination of certain actions amongst the other 7 Divisions in our organization. When I asked what authority I had to "coordinate," my Boss reflected on this for awhile, before answering, "You are 'first among equals.'"

My assessment, after a year, is that success in this environment is subject to the whims of personalities. Most of my "equals" are very cooperative and respect my position. One does not, and this can make life difficult. I have given him feedback, which usually results in (1) his apparently gratitude that I have called to his attention a problem of which he was unaware, (2) his promise to mend his ways, (3) his tendency to evidently forget, seemingly immediately, his promise, and (4) my conclusion that his positive reactions to my feedback are totally insincere and that he is incorrigible.

I have taken to dealing with him by simply stating the case, soliciting his cooperation, and when he refuses, announcing that we'll have to let our mutual boss handle it.

This is far from perfect, but I have concluded that some people can't be reached.


US41's picture

Potential Podcasts:

1. How to succeed as a "team lead" who is not a hiring/firing manager

2. Hiring friends and family - good idea or bad?

3. Hiring long time work friends? Modifying tool usage to cope with close relationships.

Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge


Well, first - don't snap at anyone, ever. If they want to kick gutter water at you, hopefully they do it in front of others, so others will see you NOT respond in kind.

Secondly, this seems a perfect case for the peer feedback model. Check it out - it's a recent cast.

And...the consequences are the same. "I get irritated, you look bad, it affects our work relationship, it makes it harder for me to do my job..."


michael.rudge's picture

I was going to post a fresh topic on this but I think this thread is actually very similar to an issue I am having.

I to am working with "nearly-peers"; I have 3 co-directors at my company but as chairman I have a little more authority than the others. As has been mentioned above, the team works well except for one director who is consistently, highly INeffective (communications, completing work thoroughly, managing time, etc).

Also as above, I have this issue that giving feedback can be unnatural sounding as we have known eachother a long time (although we have only been working together 1 year). I have been giving him feedback off-and-on and when I do, he tends to take it well and agrees on the things he needs to improve on, to make him and the team he manages (scarey I know), more effective.

The thing is that, even though he agrees to mend his ways, the progress is pretty much negligible. When challenged on why he has not done X or communicated about Y, his perennial excuse is "I didn't have time". I have tried a halfway step of asking him to at least advise colleagues when things are going to be late, but even this does not happen.

It is a bit of a vicious cycle as I see it. He has no time because he is ineffective at prioritising and managing his tasks, which in turn deprives him of time TO manage and prioritise his tasks!

There is no credible threat of sanctions I can use given the company structure so I am running out of things to try!

Any advice on this would be very gratefully received.

bflynn's picture

The normal next step would be to give feedback about how this director doesn't respond to or doesn't follow through on feedback. If that continues not to work, you move into coaching and eventually reach a "perform or get out" situation. With this person not being a direct report and you not having authority to move feedback to the next step, I'm not sure you can really escalate feedback further.

I'd take a step back and look toward his motivation (ala Dale Carnegie). I suspect that the true motivation must align with his behavior. If it doesn't there is leverage to open the door for him to understand the impact his behavior makes on his own motivation. Since it doesn't align, there should be motivation to change.

If the behavior and motivation are aligned, you have a tougher nut. Target a change to the motivation and the behavior should follow.

This is really vague, I hope its a little helpful.


Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge


I'm sorry this has taken me so long. I regret my absence.

I would simply continue to give feedback to this "peer". He may not change, and that will simply prove that your operating agreement isn't as effective as it could be, and you have a structure without power that is hurting you.

If there are no sanctions, the only solution is to persuade him personally, and it seems you are already working on that. Sometimes, having 203 people politely confront him can work. If it's bad enough, out vote him on the managing committee, and have him report to one of you.

Lacking THAT, you simply need to do what you believe is right, so that no matter what happens, you can look at yourself in the mirror.

Again, my apologies for my delay.