Why you should think twice before working with friends

We have all had that friend who is envious of our workplace, our relationship with our boss, and the team we work with. They listen to our stories about our work week on a Friday night and wish they had our life…well our work life, anyway!

Inevitably, one night, they abruptly burst out in the middle of one of those stories with the demand: “You’ve got to get me a job there! Seriously, I could do your job and…and you and I working together would be fantastic, right?”

Hmm…No! Okay, so not a solid no, but chances are that it won’t be fantastic and that is because there is a long stream of “friends” before you that would attest to that failure. The result in these situations, more times than not, is an unsuccessful venture that will cost you personally and professionally. Sometimes it does work out, sure, but it’s definitely something that you should think twice about before you take that risk.

Let’s talk about why it’s not the best decision for you. You love your job, you work well with your teammates, and your boss may even hold that mentor title for you. You are respected, well liked, and this is your place that you built up through hard work and discipline.

Then there is your friend. You may have been friends for 5 minutes or since you were 5 years old. You know this person, you know their values, their likes and dislikes. You are confident in speaking to their character! You see how they treat others—well, how they treat others in front of you.

You know their work ethic…because they have told you what it’s like. You know about how they struggle with bad bosses and lazy coworkers…because they told you all about it.

Okay, you may want to sit down for this…you only know what they have told you! People only show you what they want you to see, you know this! Sometimes it’s not even intentionally—they only see the world through their own eyes, after all. We are saturated daily with psychological garble and social media gurus, this is not a news bulletin for you. When times of interaction are limited to a few hours, it is easy to maintain appearances. We show our best! We all do. It is when you spend extended periods together that the veneer finish begins to crack—ask any married couple.

The guilty by association clause

I’m not saying that what lies underneath us is dark and sinister. I’m simply saying that there are unknown traits that you may not support and that may not support you—habits or behaviours that may not be in alignment with who you are professionally and that may reflect poorly on you indirectly because of the “guilty by association” clause. You may have a wealth of similarities on a personal level, however, professionally you may not even be in the same scope.

If you have a strong work relationship, many times that friendship will move into a personal relationship—the planets align differently here for a series of reasons, each one independent of the other. It’s not always a positive venture going from work to personal, however, it does tend to have a higher success rate than going from personal to work.

Taking care of your own business—your reputation

The suggestion here is to nurture your work relationships throughout your work week and save those close friendships for the other side of your life where you can create deep, meaningful bonds that serve you personally. Your professional reputation may thank you.

The alternative would be, next time a friend or the boss approaches you, be honest and express your point of view to both parties. To your friend, express the importance of your reputation and credibility at work and that you trust they would be a positive reflection of that. To the boss, advise them you only know this individual on a personal level and do not know their work ethics. If you are confident in creating these alliances, make the introductions and then remove yourself from the final decision process.