It’s time for some real talk.
The Entrepreneur Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in America’s startup scene contribute answers to timely questions about entrepreneurship and careers. Today’s answer to the question “What should you do when your friends ask you to hire them?” is written by Jonas Tahlin, CEO of luxury vodka label Absolut Elyx.
When your friends ask you to hire them, the short answer is to laugh it off and move on to another topic. I mean it. But let’s get there together.
It’s a tempting option. You obviously like these people already. You know they’d be loyal, and the feeling of working toward a common goal with them would be wonderful. The office would probably be more fun, too; you’d be able to joke around a bit more. And, as we’ve seen, happy workplaces lead to better productivity.
So what’s the issue? Why don’t we fill up our offices with our friends as our employees? Well, other than the obvious answer, which is that your friends are not very likely to be matching the specific needs of a given job, there are some other reasons to refrain.
Let me give you the example of when I had to fire a friend. We started out as equals in Procter & Gamble – two brand new assistant brand managers – but I got promoted to brand manager faster, and so I became his boss. We had become really close outside of the office, too – drinking together, dating together. Pretty quickly after becoming his boss I realized why he didn’t get promoted faster — he wasn’t that good.
Imagine having to tell one of your best friends that he doesn’t have a future in the company. Having to explain to him that he lacks the abilities needed for him to progress, that he lacks leadership skills, that his analytical competence is weak – it’s devastating.
Then think about that barbecue you have planned together later that same day with your respective families. Do you think you can completely separate your personal relationship from your private one? “Oh, by the way, all those things I explained to you today about your shortcomings were of course completely professional; privately I disagree with everything I said. Let’s forget about it ok? Found a new job yet? Why does your girlfriend keep giving me dirty looks by the way? And your dad?”
There is no real way of separating your friendship from outside of the office to inside of the office. There can never be any suspicion of preferential treatment in a company. And unless you are a complete asshole who feels comfortable telling your friends about their shortcomings, then you shouldn’t put yourself in that situation. You should only hire people that you can also lose and be brutally honest with if things don’t work out. So trust me, it’s just not a good idea.
Now, all that being said, don’t get confused between friends and acquaintances. Friends are people who you’ll say are pretty when they’re not or are right when they’re wrong. And therein lies the issue with hiring them.
That issue doesn’t tend to happen with acquaintances – and they probably come with a ready-made background check, which is great.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with hiring people that you like and feel comfortable around, in fact it’s a necessity to make work fun. But do stay away from your friends as employees. As I said in the beginning, laugh it off and move on to another topic when the question comes. How ‘bout them Lakers.