Your behavior with friends may influence your career

We usually give our friends some slack, letting them slide when if they were a co-worker we might not.

But how about friends who we could refer for a job or consulting project? Do you let them get by with being irresponsible or self-absorbed?

I’m in the position to refer a lot of my collegial friends to possible new business. But — rightly or wrongly — I notice how they behave toward me as a determinant of if I want to put my reputation on the line by referring them.

A man who is also a consultant and trainer became personal a friend. When he had engagements in my area, I invited him to save the hour drive from his home and stay in my guest room. He often took me up on it. I enjoyed his company.

However, he rarely brought anything if he also came to dinner. In fact, he would sometimes say, “Do you have any wine?” as he entered empty handed.

He was also lax about returning my calls, even if I said it was to discuss a potential referral for him. Then when I did refer him, he let a week or so lapse before calling my connection who was expecting his call.

The last straw came when I invited him to a small dinner party. He knew only 5 others were attending. When he asked, “What can I bring that doesn’t take cooking?” I nearly fainted, but I said, “No one else is bringing wine. Can you do that?” He said yes.

On the evening of the event all the other guests arrived. When he hadn’t at 30 minutes past the designated arrival time, I got worried as I thought something must have happened to him. I called his cell phone — no answer so I left a voice mail. I also texted asking his estimated time of arrival. Nothing.

Another half hour passed and we sat down to dinner — wineless. I called and texted again. No response.

I figured something horrible happened. The next day, still nothing from him. The next week a mutual friend said she’d talked to him. I asked if he’d mentioned anything bad happening recently and she said no.

A few weeks later he called and left a message. I was relieved nothing horrible happened, but livid that he hadn’t 1) bothered to call if he knew he couldn’t make it so I could have provided the wine he’d promised, and 2) didn’t respond to my calls expressing my concern for him.

While I enjoyed this man’s company, he crossed the line. I’d given him slack in the past many times, but I could no longer tolerate his self-absorption, not only from a friend standpoint, but professionally. I could not in good conscience refer him again because of his irresponsible behavior. I couldn’t be sure his bad judgement wouldn’t also pay out in a client situation.

How do you behave toward your collegial friends? They may be determining if your behavior illustrates someone who’s responsible, ethical and reliable. Or not.