Hiring Employees

How to Lose Friends (By Employing Them)

Written by Jay Shapiro for Gaebler Ventures

Business and personal relationships are two very different things. While it seems logical to employ people you now and like, professional pressures can quickly diminish friendships, even strong ones.

You've got your own business and when it comes to staffing it, it makes sense to employ people you know well and like well.

Your friends. But will it work. Many entrepreneurs flatly refuse to have their friends work for them. Here's why:

A friend may request that you employ them, and at first it seems like a good idea. After all, your friend knows how you tick so they'll be able to chime in with you in the work place, understand your aims.

In theory that's all well and good. In practice it could be very different.

The friend who knows you well knows you well on a private level. S/he knows the you that's laid back and easy going. It might come as a shock when they find you are quite a different animal in business.

It's hard for both employer and employee to adjust to the new 'businesslike relationship'. If your friend is accustomed to your amiable, 'up for a laugh' attitude outside the workplace they will very likely find your professional approach colder and less friendly. Will they like this? Will they be comfortable with it?

What are the pitfalls?

It's always difficult to bring friends into the workplace, especially when you are to play the role of boss. In your personal life everything with your friends is on an equal footing. In the workplace it is you who must be consulted about actions taken or decisions made. The edges blur sometimes and it's a tough call for both.

Do you try to keep elements of the 'friendship' alive in the workplace or is it strictly professional once you're inside the office.

Feelings of resentment can build up. You're in charge, you ear more than your friend and you're the head honcho. This dynamic can be an especially tricky one to get used to, particularly if the relationship outside of work is in stark contrast.

Let's say Jack's a really dominant guy amongst his friends (you are one of them). He's the one who makes the decisions about where you and your buddies spend your vacation time, he chooses what movies you see. Jack's a natural born organizer. How's that going to work when you employ him?

On the one hand you know that Jack is a good organizer. On the other hand, will Jack's propensity to be in charge sometimes mean he acts out of line, forgetting you're the boss?

Let's look at Jill now. She's the timid one in your bunch of friends, she's shy. Everyone in the group takes care of Jill because she's seen as a little fragile. However, she's a great girl for graphics, so you employ her. Problem is that you'd feel awkward about taking Jill up on any errors made in her work incase it upsets her. It's hard for you to be detached and businesslike when you care so much about someone.

Jack or Jill or neither? While both will no doubt have plenty to bring to the table, it's probably best to keep them as friends rather than let work pressures turn them into foes.

Jay Shapiro is a freelance writer based in the UK. Jay has a particular interest in the emotive aspects of the entrepreneur's character. "Alongside the nuts and bolts of business, the character of the person is often the ingredient responsible for success."

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