Hiring & Managing a Friend? Proceed With Caution

Thinking about hiring a friend to work with you? Proceed with extreme caution – if at all.

At first, the idea of working with a friend can sound great – you get along well, you can talk through problems easily, you see eye-to-eye on most things, and you can act as each other’s ally at work. But managing a friend can be far tougher than it looks – and few friendships come out of it intact. Here’s why managing a friend (and being managed by a friend) can be so hard:

  • As your friend’s manager, you’re going to have access to information that you can’t share with her – about finances, personnel decisions, and so forth. So suddenly you’re keeping secrets from your friend.
  • Your friend is going to have to keep things from you, too. At some point, everyone needs to vent about their boss, no matter how fantastic that boss might be. And now that you’re her boss, the person she’s venting about will be you.
  • You’re going to know things that you’ll wish you didn’t know. For instance, normally if an employee calls in sick on a day you really needed her at work, you might be disappointed but you understand. But when that employee is your friend and you happen to know that she was out late at a bar last night, you have a different issue to deal with.
  • The worst possibility might come to fruition: You might need to fire her. Can you picture having to tell your friend she’s in danger of getting fired if her performance doesn’t improve? Worse, can you picture yourself having to fire her? (Even if you think your friendship would survive this, anecdotal evidence puts that in doubt.)

Of course, if you’re like everyone else in the history of the workplace, you’re thinking that this will be different for you. But the reality is that there’s a very good chance you’ll find that doing your job well means sacrificing the friendship. If that trade-off isn’t worth it to you, think very carefully before putting yourself in a situation where you might ever need to make that choice.

Alison Green

Alison Green writes the popular Ask a Manager blog where she dispenses advice on career, job search, and management issues. She's also the co-author of Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Manager's Guide to Getting Results and former chief of staff of a successful nonprofit organization, where she oversaw day-to-day staff management, hiring, firing, and employee development.

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  • Anon

    Even just training a friend can be hazardous to a friendship. About 12 years ago, I switched jobs to one that had much better pay and working environment. After I was hired, a couple of friends from the previous job switched too after I told them about it. There were a couple of months between us and for some reason, my new job thought that was enough time for me to be a mentor for one of my friends. She challenged me often and it did end our friendship for awhile. Luckily, we patched things up later and were able to continue as friends, but I’ll never do that again – at least not with a friend who I don’t also know really, really well.

    [Reply]

    Alison Green - Ask a Manager Reply:

    Your company probably thought it was doing something sensible in assigning you to mentor a friend, but of course a more nuanced reading of the situation probably would have told them that that’s exactly the wrong dynamic to set up!

    [Reply]

  • http://www.blurbpoint.com/link-building-services.php Link Building Services

    If one want to higher the friend in own business firm , or want to make partnership in the business, then there are three possibilities one can choose : One is that fully trust and confidence on friend for his/her performance and keeping the things private. And the other is be ready to loss the personal relationship due to professional relationship. Or one has to learn to keep distance in the personal and professional relationship. Apart from this the better choice is not to deal with the friend and both should build its own business , so no fear for losing the friendship which is the great relation in the world.

    [Reply]

  • Legal Issue or Not?

    Isn’t there a legal issue with a friend manager and employee friend? Where the friend manager uses the employee friend for benefits?

    [Reply]

  • Anonymous

    There is a very good chance you will find that your work means sacrificing good friendship. If the compromise is not worth to you, then think twice before putting yourself in a situation where you may need to make that choice.

    [Reply]

    Alison Green - Ask a Manager Reply:

    Exactly. The most important thing is to go into it with your eyes wide open, really understanding the trade-off that you might be making. 

    [Reply]

  • HMFriend

    What about hiring a friend’s husband?  My husband is unemployed and a position he would do very well at has opened up locally.  Problem is, the hiring manager is my friend.  :(

    [Reply]

    Alison Green - Ask a Manager Reply:

    Similar problems can come up that can affect your friendship with the hiring manager, so you’ve got to weigh that against the benefits.

    [Reply]

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