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.