Should you hire a friend to work for you? If you are sitting among a group of leaders and that question is posed, you get a variety of responses, each with a heavy dose of passion.
“Don’t hire anyone you can’t let go.”
“Life is too short to serve alongside people you don’t like. So, yes.”
“You can’t be friends with people you lead.”
“You must be friends with people you lead.”
“It works great. Until it doesn’t.”
“Trust makes teams more effective, so hiring someone you trust is great.”
Thoughts about hiring friends are typically passionate thoughts because leaders have benefited greatly from doing so or been hurt deeply by doing so. This is a subject where there is little middle ground. So here are the two views, presented as objectively as possible, followed by my personal take. As a leader, you are responsible to form your own thoughts on the matter:
View One: Hiring Friends Is a Big Blunder
Those who view “hiring friends” as a mistake can arrive at that conclusion practically or experientially. Practically speaking, those who oppose hiring a friend believe objectivity is lost if you do so. You won’t be able to hold the friend accountable, they argue, in the same way you would hold someone else accountable. Or you could even overcorrect on decisions regarding salary and other benefits to prove you are not showing favorites, which in turn isn’t fair to the person. Those who get to the conclusion experientially have been hurt. Perhaps a close relationship is no longer as close after the hiring. Great friends, they argue, don’t always make great coworkers.
View Two: Hiring Friends Is a Big Blessing
Those who view “hiring friends” as a great opportunity likewise can arrive at that conclusion practically or experientially. Practically speaking, those who advocate hiring friends, point to the importance of trust on a team. In many cases it takes years to build solid trust among leaders. Hiring a friend, they believe, can speed that process up exponentially. Teams who trust each other move exponentially quicker. Those who have hired friends and have enjoyed the experience are likely to advocate for the practice. They point to the healthy relationships, the memories, and the blessing of being able to work alongside people you will know and love your whole life.
So Where Do I Land?
I understand the view of not hiring friends and have heard that view articulated well many times. I am not saying there are not risks involved. But I believe that the risks are worth it. Hiring friends is a blessing. Trust is high and you are able to enjoy life and work together without needing to view life and work as overly distinct (they have never been for me). On my team now are several friends with whom I have served in multiple cities. I won’t hire all my friends (some would never work for me), but I love it when I can.