Hiring a friend: why is it a risk?

You probably have told your buddies at least once: “Hey, we should work together, we’d be an amazing team!” Sometimes this happens to be true. Sometimes not at all. To be honest, it’s much more likely that it’s not going to work, and this is because many relationships are not between equals. In fact, there may be workplace hierarchies; sometimes two friends could even find themselves in a boss-to-subordinate relationship.

In a professional context, neither giving orders to someone we care about nor receiving them is easy, since it may result in a blow for the ego. If your friend does not properly carry out his tasks, talking to him may be tricky because you’ll be afraid to hurt his feelings.

Your relationship outside office hours may be affected, too, since you probably won’t feel like going out with a person you already see 8 hours every day in the office. This lack of a “private” time will end up distorting your friendship.

When you hire somebody close to you, you may also expose yourself to “behavior gap” risks. Your friend may take liberties, openly or covertly contesting your authority. That’s why you must make expectations crystal clear since the very beginning of your working relationship.

Draw up a proper working contract for your friend just as you would do with any other employee. Be always fair so that other employees shall not complain about any preferential treatment. 

Before hiring a friend, simply ask yourself the right questions: would I have hired X if I didn’t already know him? Does he really have the right skills for the job? I know my friend better than anyone else: will he get along well with other coworkers? Are his soft skills beneficial for the company and teamwork?

If you are the only one to make hiring decisions, you will risk more, putting at stake your company and your friendship at once. Personally, I think that being your friend’s boss is a risky situation that is not meant to last.

I have experienced the opposite situation: a friend of mine let me join his firm, after making clear that he would have been my superior. Everything went smoothly the first few months, but in the end some problems came up. To avoid breaking up with my friend, I decided to quit, and after that my friend quit too.

Finally, I suggest working with your friends only if you have different responsibilities or different superiors, or if you are at the same hierarchical level in the company. Anyway, just keep in mind that it would be more complicated to fix problems at work when friendship gets involved!