Don’t Hire Your Friends… and Don’t Make Friends With Your Employees


In 1966, when, at age 16, I started my first “real” business, I hired two of my closest friends to work for me. And it was fine. Between then and 1983, I started and ran a half-dozen other businesses and always hired friends to work for me – with no problems that I can remember.

I began to change my egalitarian view of business relationships in 1983, when, for the first time, I ran a business with more than 100 employees. I hired friends (and even family members) to fill certain job openings. These were hardworking people that for the most part did a very good job. But because of the size of this business, I couldn’t be involved in everything they did.

Unlike my earlier businesses, I wasn’t working shoulder to shoulder with my worker/friends. I wasn’t able to settle disputes before they began. Nor was I able to resolve personal problems because there were protocols I had to respect.

As a result, I got dragged into some uncomfortable situations. And because I always put my friendships above my loyalty to the business, the outcome was invariably problematic. Feelings were hurt. Productivity was sacrificed. And in two cases (that I’ll never forget), putting friendship first cost me (and my partner) more than a million dollars.

After suffering stubbornly for several years, I made it a rule: I promised my partner – and myself – that I wouldn’t hire friends or family members ever again. It was a relatively easy rule to follow, and I’ve obeyed it. But I’ve had trouble with the flip side: not allowing myself to befriend employees.

Since I work mostly in publishing and marketing, I have the good fortune to employ lots of very smart and engaging people. Every week, I meet some new employee that has the qualities I seek in a friend: intelligence, good character, and wit. I can’t stop myself from wanting to be friends with these people, even though I know I shouldn’t.

What I do to resist the temptation is tell myself, very consciously, that the desire I have to make friends with them is a sort of mental illness.

I’m serious. I tell myself it’s a morbid combination of narcissism and self-loathing.

And I think, at the root, it is. I want to “be there” for these good and interesting people. I want to help them achieve their potential at work. But I also want to help them in every aspect of their lives. In my rational mind, I believe that’s all I want. But in the arrested development of my emotional brain, I want something in return. I want their admiration and everlasting devotion.

It feels to me, as I’m sure it does to you, creepy when I put it that way. And that feeling generally dissuades me.

The Friendship Imperative

Friendship is a necessary component of a well-lived life.

You can have everything else – wealth, stature, fame, and even power. But if you don’t have friends – true friends – you have a life that is …read more

Source:: Investment You