Managing Friends in the Workplace


Have you ever hired a friend to work for you?  Even though they were a skilled professional and knew how to do their job, managing performance issues requires a finesse not taught in your typical management development training course.

While I have always hired attitude first, followed by competencies second, I have on occasions hired people that I’ve worked with as a peer in the past.  It has required a different set of skills to manage friends, because you don’t know until after they are on staff if they will try and take advantage of their inside relationship with you.

I’ve personally had both success and failures with hiring friends.  Some have been mature enough to not ask for anything different in our working relationship than what any staff member would expect.  While others have crossed the line assuming that our friendship would protect them from accountability.

The key to managing, friends or strangers is to treat everyone the same.  Require the same level of productivity, behaviors and communications.  Your access to staff should be no different than you would grant to anyone else.  In other words, everyone is on the same playing field.

I would also suggest that friendships remain outside the work environment.  Because although you and they may be working well together, other staff will attribute actions and inactions simply as a result of the friendship.  And no matter what you do or don’t do, if people think that you are playing favorites, you will never change their minds.

In the end, I have hired friends before that I would hire again.  I have also hired friends that because of our previous friendship left us no longer friends or working associates.  Yet, the best advice I can give any manager is to hire attitude first, competencies second, and leave friendship out of the equation altogether.

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