It’s tempting, right? Hiring that friend. That trusted confidant who seems to “get” what you are trying to do with your business. After all, they agree with everything you say over coffee or at happy hour. And in some cases, they may even know your industry, clients and competitors. And, since you’re friends, that fun you have outside of work can also be had in the workplace, right?
No headaches. No hassle. A win-win.
Not so fast.
Don’t do it, says Joanne McCall, a publicist and media training expert who educates entrepreneurs and small business owners on how to get media attention. She’s speaking from personal experience. Her mantra is: “Business associates and employees can become friends. Friends cannot become employees.”
“This is based on experience,” says McCall. “I will never forget, nor break the rules.”
Vicky Oliver is the author of five books on business and career development, including Bad Bosses, Crazy Coworkers & Other Office Idiots: 201 Smart Ways to Handle the Toughest People Issues. She to, doesn’t think it’s a good idea to hire your friends, especially when one is the boss and one is a direct report, “now a power dynamic has been added to what used to be a zone of equals,” says Oliver.
And, there are expectations for working with someone, day in and day out, that are stricter than one’s expectations for most friendships. “I believe that working every day with a friend can tax the friendship,” adds Oliver. Bringing a friend on staff also creates an “alliance” between the hirer and the friend.
“Everyone else will automatically assume that both people are always in agreement on all items,” says Oliver.
At the same time, employers should encourage friends of employees to apply for jobs within the company, says Tonya Lain, Regional Vice President, Adecco Staffing USA.
“While it’s important to hire for hard skills, hiring for soft skills, including cultural fit, is also highly important,” says Lain. “One way to know whether or not a candidate will mesh with your organization’s culture is to hire friends.”
The reason, says Lain, is you’ll most likely have an idea of that person’s experience, attitude and work ethic. A quick conversation with your employee can tell you more about that person. That’s why many of today’s best-in-class companies are employing bonus programs to encourage current employees, and even prospective candidates, to make referrals from their personal networks.
“When you hire or refer a friend who ends up thriving within the organization, it’s a win-win situation,” says Lain.
But…there is always that dreaded downside.
“The downside of hiring friends is the potential to damage the friendship, and even your reputation, if the candidate does not work out,” says Lain. “Before you hire a friend for a position, think about what matters most to you and make sure you feel strongly that they have the potential to be successful in the role.”
Think hard. Long and hard. Is it worth it?