I've been running a web development business for around 5 years now and am starting to employ staff members to perform little tasks for me to help make my job a little easier to focus on.

At this stage I'm looking to hire an individual to do my blog post editing work and other side tasks to help me focus on the web development side of things.

I've heard hiring family and/or friends can be challenging in the workplace; i.e. broken relationships and awkward interactions etc; i'm not sure how much of this is true but can certainly see some truth in it.

If I were to hire a friend to do work for me, how can I prevent conflict in the workplace and outside of the workplace?

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    Putting friends in the workplace is like putting money in the stock market. Do it only if you are ok with losing what you are putting in. :) – Masked Man Mar 19 '18 at 8:58

I've often heard this as well, however, it can be really awesome to work with people you already know and like! From my experience, it's challenging due to mismatched assumptions and a lack of communication. The best time to clear this all in the air is at the beginning of the work relationship. It often means a direct conversation with the person you are wanting to hire.

A sample of the conversation might go like this:

Our relationship is super important to me, in fact, more important than you working here with me. I want you to be in the best role for your skills and ambition. If that's not here, then I want you to know that you can feel free to move on without me taking offense. However, it might become clear to me, that the role you're in isn't a good fit after working together, and I might have to ask you to vacate that role. I want you to know that it would be because I value you as a friend and as a whole person: I want you to be where you are best fulfilled and used.

Additionally, a lot of times when friends/family/etc. work together, there is this unspoken assumption that more grace is extended because of our prior relationship. While circumstances happen, I will expect you to perform at your highest level for the role I am hiring you for. Just because we're friends doesn't mean you get a pass. In fact, I would hope that our mutual respect for each other would mean that we work with excellence regardless of who is in charge.

Here is a clear job description with the roles and duties clearly laid out. This is what I am expecting you to be able to do...

It is my belief that a lot of times, the hiring manager of a friend thinks that they don't have to be as clear about the role since they are friends and "of course they'll work hard for me." Well, they might not know what you expect of them if you're not clear. That is true even if you aren't already friends: people generally can't read your mind! Expectations and feedback need to be clearly communicated.

Keep in mind that even with good communication and safeguards in place, the power dynamic will now shift, and encounters outside the workplace will invariably change. You are now their boss, even when just you're hanging out. You now see how they act through the lens of a supervisor (are they exhibiting good judgement here? Is this how they act at work towards others, towards customers? etc.) This isn't necessarily bad, but something to be aware about.

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It's by no means a certainty that it will cause problems - however all too often it can place quite a strain on the personal relationship and/or lead to a highly dysfunctional working relationship.

If you hire a friend to do this work for you they will be your subordinate and when the two of you are in a work context you will be giving the instructions and expecting them to be followed. You have to really ask yourself if the person you are planning on hiring will be able to take "orders" from you first and foremost, and also whether that will affect any existing dynamics between the two of you.

If this person misses a deadline, or makes a mistake where you have to remonstrate with them will they be able to compartmentalize that into a purely professional context or will it affect how they feel about you personally? I think we've all been in situations where we've felt unfairly critisized by our manager and felt angry with them for that - will they truly be able to just let that go when you finish for the day and go grab a beer? Equally when managing someone it's not uncommon to get annoyed or frustrated with someone when their performance falls below what you require or expect, will you be able to seperate Bob your employee from Bob your friend?

Essentially it can work, but you need to have a really good think about what you are getting yourself (and your friend into) before you go there, and if you decide to go ahead I suggest having a very open and honest conversation with your friend about how you expect the arrangement to work before you start.

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  • I have faced the problem of obeying/equality a lot, I have given reference to many of my friends and they supposed to work under me but as times goes on I have faced a lot of conflicts and broken relationships. – Ali786 Mar 19 '18 at 10:47
  • Also, you have to be able to deal with the fact that sooner or later the person will find another job. How will that affect you and your friendship? – HLGEM Mar 19 '18 at 14:31
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    @HLGEM absolutely.. or indeed if the work drops away and you have to look at laying them off? it's bad enough feeling responsible for the livelihood of yourself and (relative) strangers as a small business operator, but the stress of thinking about your friends in the same position? Imagine the converstaion - "Sorry I have to make you redundant but see you Friday for beer and the game?" – motosubatsu Mar 19 '18 at 16:11

I've seen it work and I've seen it not work. The biggest difference I saw in whether it worked or not was the maturity of the people involved and their ability to separate work from friendship. If you can treat the person exactly as you would treat someone you hired as a stranger, be willing to criticize work if need be and to let the person go if performance is not up to snuff and if the person you hire is mature enough to leave the friendship at the door when coming to work, then try it.

If you have other non-friends in the company, you also need to be very aware that they will be affected by your friendship. It limits their ability to get promoted, it may limit their ability to get the more interesting tasks, etc. So having a friend as an employee can be a very demoralizing and demotivating experience for the rest of the staff. This is why it is critical that you be able to treat the person the same way you treat other people.

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  • Theres also the thing that you might start talking about work when you meet your friend/employee outside of work. If its someone really close you need to evaluate that you might be spending 90% of your time with them, basically having no time away from them. If you friendship ends, so will your work relationship, becuase you cant communicate anymore. – Chapz Mar 20 '18 at 10:55

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