My husband/business partner and I made a serious mistake early in our company in hiring one of our friends. Several people told us not to do this and several people told our friend not to take the job. Alas, hindsight truly is 20/20; hiring a friend is truly one of those things no one should ever do. (Sometimes one has to hire one’s family member(s), but that topic is something about which I promise never to have any direct knowledge!) Knowing someone as a friend, that is, someone to share fun times with, is vastly different than employing that same someone who does not share the work ethic of the friend/employer (who also happens to be the boss) and who responds to the boss’ slightest criticism with, “I thought we were friends!”. There are a lot of people who are looking for jobs who are as qualified as one’s friends. It is far better to hire one of these people, who can be disciplined and even fired if necessary, than to destroy a long time friendship by employing a friend. Yes, friends can usually be trusted more than strangers, but there are too many other reasons why, at least in my work environment, employing a friend may cause a lifetime of regret.
My comments on this are not as strong as Melissa’s because in our experience the person/friend in question was more her friend than mine. So, while I will never say never to hiring a friend, doing so again would only be done under exceptional circumstances. In a demanding working environment, flaws or mistakes made by friends are magnified by the friendship, “how could he/she do that to me?” This is the reverse of the “I thought we were friends…” reaction on the part of the friend. An issue at play in any business partnership is the question of whether the partners are equally strong and committed to the work and company. When hiring a friend as an employee, it is perhaps impossible to expect the employee, even if he/she is a friend, to share the same level of commitment as an owner/partner. Friend or not, they are going to be an employee and this is a situation ripe for conflict. If one is considering hiring a friend or working for a friend, be wary. And, to improve the chance of success in a friend to friend working relationship, be sure to do everything possible to have honest and open, 2 way, communication throughout the working relationship so that expectations are known and met. Further, all appearances of favoritism related to the friend/employee/employer must be avoided to avoid creating problems with other employees. Hire a friend at the risk of losing both a friend and an employee. But if that risk is taken, communicate privately and immediately if there are any hints of a problem with work performance and results.