The Caution of Working with Friends

I believe in being friends with the people with whom I work.  I consider the people on our staff to be friends. I hope we never hire anyone I could not also claim as a friend.  Part of building a healthy team environment is getting to know team members and building close relationships…friends.

That is the disclaimer statement, because this post is not about working with friends.  Actually this post is the opposite. This post is a warning against working with friends; especially close friends.  Well maybe not a warning, but definitely a caution.

Here are a few cautions when working with or supervising friends:

  • Sometimes leaders allow the vision to be sacrificed to protect a friend, but that approach is never good for the organization or the friend. Relationships should not get in the way of accomplishing vision.
  • Friendships create a fine line between what is fair for the organization and what is fair for the friend.
  • Close friendships within an organization can sometimes cause others in the organization to feel left out of private conversations or inside jokes, creating tension in the working environment.
  • When a friend is disciplined or fired it can be difficult for the friend who stays with the organization to continue respecting leadership.
  • When a friend is under performing many leaders have a harder time addressing the problem if that worker is a friend.
  • Friends sometimes assume unqualified job security.  Some leaders are afraid to fire a person if that person is a friend, but again that approach is never good for the organization or the friend.  There are times when a friend is no longer a good fit for the position or even for the organization.
  • If a friend no longer is a fit for the organization and is asked to leave, it can become more difficult to maintain the friendship.

As I said at the start, I love working with friends.  I would not want it any other way.  It is important, however, that friends recognize the risk of working together, knowing that the vision of the organization, at least in the work environment, trumps the friendship.  The bottom line is that doing the best thing for the organization often involves making hard decisions. Leaders should not be held back because of the level of difficulty.

I realize that even this post will create division among readers. Some readers will say that friendships are more important than the vision, but I would disagree.  If the vision is a worthy goal then the vision is worth protecting and friendships should not get in the way.

Have you seen close friendships affect the work environment in a negative way?  Would you rather you did or did not work with friends?

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3 thoughts on “The Caution of Working with Friends

  1. I was hired by someone I had known most of my life, even though there was a noticable age gap, we somehow formed an amazing friendship which we still have today.

    The other staff noticed this friendship and sadly jealousy set in, it got ugly whenever she left the office and some horrible things were said – they went as far as taking a dig at me being a christian.

    Finally a blow up occurred and she found out, being the loving includer she is, she got involved and instinctively protected me. Big mistake.

    So a little while into the heavy silence, the dark cloud looming over our office and my friendship, I took a step back to figure it out. My friendship was irreplacable and always will be however, a job, that could be changed easily. So as soon as another job popped up we both came to the decision that this would only benefit us and it truly has, we have a secure friendship without the need to defend one another around people we should always be considering (The Team).

    Your blog is so true, we can truly ticke every area. Its great advice. Friendship is a precious gift, always protect it by any means. This one of mine is for life! Truly blessed.

  2. I was in a class called “Entrepreneurshial Perspectives” in which we were able to speak, work with, and present multiple entrepreneurs in Minneapolis.

    The one I found very surprising was the major interior designer whose major partner was…guess who…her spouse! Turns out her business did very well…she handled the creative aspect and he handled the business side, and she managed the employees.

    I would go into business on a new venture with someone I trust and who I am convinced is just close enough with me that he or she can tell me what is on his or her mind, be quaint, but far enough away where I know it isn’t personal. Anything closer than that is a red flag.

    Hearing from many business owners at the Carlson School of Management, it has been extremely interesting to hear one thing over and over, “don’t make a close friend your business partner”, well I guess a lot of people make that mistake it seems…buying out your good friend seems like a very sticky concept.

    Great post! Keep em comin.
    .-= Dustin Huibregtse´s last blog ..FYI: Managing Crisis – A Student Perspective =-.