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Context

Recently, I had meeting with my bosses to discuss my performance. At the end of this meeting they asked if I could help them by "putting out feelers" for a possible replacement for someone who has left our company. I ended up emailing them the resume of one of my friends (after confirming this is a role he would be interested in) and fast-forward a bit and he has received + accepted a job offer. We will be doing slightly different jobs (soft. dev vs IT tech) but due to the nature of my workplace I will have to do some things that he would. In addition, as a more senior employee, I will be partly-responsible for training him and managing him.

Problem

There are lots of things that people believe can go wrong when working with a friend but I haven't seen exactly what those are. When working with my friend, what are these things that can go wrong and how can I avoid them?

My thoughts

I was unable to find a similar circumstance on stackexchange so far. The most relevant questions are to deal with having a friend do work for you. The main principle that I took away from these questions are: setting clear boundaries and expectations. I'm just not sure how I would do that though.

Edit for more info Per @dhein's comment. I mostly want to keep things separated in terms of friendship and work. Of course, I'd like to have the regular "water-cooler" conversations and amicable relationships you'd normally have with co-workers too. I'm not sure exactly what my friend expects but I feel that this is what he's been advised to act as well. I was more so looking for potential pit falls that I may fall into that causes me to cross a boundary

  • I've worked with friends and not had problems, but managing a friend is a red flag. How much management are we talking about? Would you be reporting on his performance to other managers? – DaveG Mar 9 at 20:03
  • @DaveG nothing is written out on paper about the management side. I also have a strong feeling that I will be asked about his performance at annual/biannual intervals. – FishV Mar 10 at 1:34
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I can speak from experience here - I started a company with a close friend. We were always on the same level, in the sense that we 'reported' to each other and there was no one else. After close to two years, we were acquired and my friend and I were to build a team within that company from the ground up. Initially, the team was still only the two of us. The team grew over time, and management decided that I was to be promoted to team lead, and not my friend.

This obviously was not a fun conversation. My friend turned a bit cold and pretty blunt towards me, and didn't want to discuss any of this. While perhaps not extremely professional, this is something that can happen when friends have an unbalanced working relationship. I gave it a few weeks (it was the summer period, which was great timing to be honest) and when we were both back from holidays, I sat him down and talked about responsibilities and professionalism. We discussed what he would be responsible for, and what I would be responsible for. I told him that within the office, we are colleagues first, friends second. Outside the office, it was the other way around. And I told him to tell me if something did not sit well with him, and I would do the same with him

We communicated this to the management, and then went out for a few beers to talk about our holidays. Since then, we can easily switch between work where we need to be direct and sometimes don't agree, to friendship outside of the office.

So my advice would be to sit down together and discuss this. Being open about this is key, and make sure to keep communicating with your friend AND your manager on how things are going. It is possible to have a friendship and a working relationship where one is responsible for the other. It will not be easy and take work, but if you both want to, you can do this.

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  • When did you begin the discussion? Was it during work time or outside of work time? – FishV Mar 10 at 23:51
  • 2
    During work time. I thought it best to to approach it there so we could tackle that annoying part first and then afterwards head out for a drink. We immediately could try if the change of scenery would work. – JeroendeK Mar 11 at 5:31

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