DEAR HARRIETTE: I did a friend a favor and hired her son to do a little extra work for me, and I'm really disappointed in his performance. He agreed to do the work but has been dragging his feet. He doesn't respond to my emails in a timely manner. Generally, he seems really lax about it all. I feel like an idiot. I didn't have to hire him. He needs extra money, so I thought I was doing him and his mom a favor.
I don't want to pay him now for work that he has hardly done. How do I handle this? -- Burned, Chicago
DEAR BURNED: Step back into your professional posture. How would you address this with any other employee? That's the way to approach him.
First, go directly to the young man and ask him for a status report on the project. Find out what he has accomplished and what is outstanding. Ask if he wants to continue with this project. If so, give him specific guidelines for how you expect him to complete the work at hand, including timelines.
If you do not believe he is capable of or interested in completing the work to your satisfaction, terminate his services. Pay him for what he has completed, not for the whole project. Also, call his mother and explain the situation so that she fully understands why you have taken this position. You will be doing him no favors to accommodate his bad performance.
DEAR HARRIETTE: A long-lost relative just showed up in my town. I have never known her very well, but she called and was so excited to be in touch. I know she is my cousin, but I feel weird about getting together since it has been years since we last saw each other.
How can I make a potentially awkward situation more comfortable? She, by the way, seems perfectly at ease and even happy about us getting together. I feel bad that I haven't kept in touch with her. -- Feeling Awkward, Seattle
DEAR FEELING AWKWARD: Take your cue from your cousin. She's not looking backward. She's excited to see you now.
Allow her positive energy to be contagious. Make a plan to get together for lunch or dinner. Be open to learning about each other and about how your lives have evolved over the years. Assume the positive, namely, that you two are destined to get to know each other better since you are now in the same town.
This could be your chance to gain a cousin. Just as some friends can become close after years of not being in touch, so can family members become significant in your life when the moment is right. Trust that this is possible.