Working with your friends can seem like a dream job. What could be better than to have your BFF in the cubicle or office right next to you? Your friends are the ones with whom you commiserate and complain about the boss, so, of course, bringing your friend into your work place is a natural progression and will bring you closer, right?
Well, for some this may be true but when a friend becomes a co-worker you need to be ready to experience a different side to this relationship to which you’ve never been exposed. Remember, your prior experience with this person is purely social. You’ve not had deadlines to make, you don’t know if they are competitive or even jealous of you or your situation, and, oftentimes, you may find that their work ethic doesn’t match yours.
When we think about our friends we just want them to be happy; being happy about being able to help a friend find a job or help them out through a rough spot is only natural. Remember, they are our friends because we tend to see the good in them, no matter how bad they may really be. Before you ask your friend to apply for the job opening in your office there are some real things you must consider that could affect your future at the company, the future of your friendship, and the future of your career.
This sounds dramatic and it is. Inviting your friend into your place of work changes the dynamic not only of your friendship but also your working relationships with your co-workers, boss and associates who are affiliated with you professionally. Remember, everyone will know that you got your friend this job and they will also assume the two of you will “cover” for each other. In other words, all of the professional relationships you have worked hard to maintain and build will change.
There are some basic ground rules you can use as a checklist before you open your office door to what could possibly be the end of your friendship.
Do your homework: Ask yourself why you are offering your friend this job? Does she really have the qualifications? Is it because you think it would be fun? This is not the time for that knee-jerk reaction of just helping someone out. The person you invite into your workspace is not there to socialize with you and your choice is a direct reflection on your judgment and your reputation. Just as you would do a check on a potential employee, you need to find out some work history from your friend. Has she ever been fired before? What are her qualifications? Get some recommendations from her previous employers so that the recommendation of their employment doesn’t fall squarely on your shoulders.
Have a friendship “contract”: We all know that having to discuss work performance with your friend can be a very uncomfortable situation. It can also be uncomfortable if your friend receives the promotion for which you were vying.
You must be prepared for situations that will challenge your friendship, bruise your ego, and even threaten your own job security. Sit down and make an agreement between the two of you. Much like a romantic relationship, things can get complicated quickly if you don’t have open communication with each other. This is not a guarantee that things will go smoothly but it does open up the door to a real conversation and to the importance of the situation.
Create clear boundaries: Just because you are friends doesn’t mean that you should exchange confidential information about other employees; it also doesn’t mean that you can be interrupted in meetings, or disrespected.
People are watching you to make sure there is no preferential treatment. You wouldn’t want to lose the respect of your colleagues because you are notoriously lenient to family and friends.
Have an exit strategy: If you find that your friendship is strained and the relationship is damaged beyond repair be prepared to let go. Understand that this will cause a strain in the workplace and it may even be the loss of a job. If you both are still working together but not getting along you need to have a professional conversation. Acknowledge the damaged friendship, state your intensions to work together professionally do not get involved in office gossip or fights, and if it gets out of hand you will need to speak to someone in Human Resources and notify them of the situation.
Friendships are important relationships but they are very different from business relationships. In business it is common for contracts, deal memos and special steps to be taken before going through with a project. Friendships are based on an intuitive, intangible trust, and can shift once business is thrown into the mix. Many people have life long friendships and are also work partners, but for those who have been burned by a co-worker, who started out as a friend, know that not all is lost. There are always lessons to be learned and next time you should take the proper steps to write out a contract, have a conversation, or even admit that working together might not work out after all. This type of communication will strengthen your friendship and if not, you didn’t lose anything you just gained valuable perspective.
Alisa Weinstein is a certified coach, business executive and entrepreneur. As owner of Coaching Element, she supports other entrepreneurs to create businesses starting with focus, vision and action. She serves clients through individual and group coaching, seminars and public speaking. For more information, please visit www.CoachingElement.com, or e-mail Alisa@CoachingElement.com