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Professional Relationships With Your Friends Are Tricky

youre firedJoblessness is a problem.  Many have experienced a rough year.  So, it’s natural to want to help a friend when they are down on their luck.  But when a friend becomes an employee, do you risk losing both?

You’re hired!

Hiring a friend is tricky. Firing one is flat out painful and could damage both your business and your friendship.   It could be avoided if you set proper guidelines for yourself and your friend.

First, evaluate your friend’s capabilities as though you were a hiring manager.  Try not to let your friendship or desire to help your friend sway your opinion. 

Next, outline and discuss your expectations before hiring your friend.  Make certain you set standards around work ethic and quality of work.  Show examples, if possible.  That way, if expectations are not met, it more easily opens the door for the “this isn’t working” conversation, and should be easier for both sides to see that unmet expectations were based on business.

At the onset of your working relationship, you need to have an adult conversation. By adult, I mean uncomfortable.  You really need to make certain your friend will accept that during the day/project that ultimately you are the boss.  Set expectations regarding socializing, personal conversation, etc. 

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And if it starts going wrong?  While you will feel uncomfortable, bring it up right away.  If you don’t, you are doing your friend a disservice by not bringing it their attention immediately allowing time for correction.  You don’t want them believing everything is great, then drop the bomb out of the blue.

You’re fired!

If the final straw comes, it will suck.  First, state that you value the friendship.  Don’t discuss that point, just make the statement.  Then, address any/all incidents that have led to this moment. 

“I know you understand what my business means to me, and I must put my client’s interest first”.

More sound bites:

“ I think our friendship may have had an impact on the way you (insert an example on what went wrong).  I don’t think this would be the case if you were working for another company.  Can you understand where I’m coming from? This is very awkward for me.”

“What would you do if you were in my shoes?”

Hopefully the end result will be your mutually deciding to part ways professionally and amicably.  And, most importantly, as friends.

The acid test

How would you handle the situation if the employee was not a friend?  If you see your friend failing, are you bailing them out?  Helping with their work or diminishing their responsibilities so they can save face?  If so, stop. 

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Trust me, you don’t want to learn the hard way.  It truly sucks.


Written By

Brandie is an unapologetically candid marketing professional who was recently mentioned on BusinessWeek as a Top Young Female Entrepreneur. She recently co-founded consulting firm MarketingTBD. She's held senior level positions with GE and Fidelity, as well as with entrepreneurial start-ups. Raised by a real estate Broker, Brandie is passionate about real estate and is an avid investor. Follow her on Twitter.



  1. Real Estate Feeds

    October 22, 2009 at 5:22 pm

    Firing Friends … ugh: Dont be stingy with your thoughts- stop by and comment!Joblessness is a problem. M..

  2. RealEstate Babble

    October 22, 2009 at 6:05 pm

    AgentGenius: Firing Friends … ugh Full

  3. bficker

    October 23, 2009 at 12:24 am

    Ug, I have gone through this before. Starting in real estate at 21 in the town I grew up in didn’t help. Family friends all were willing to use me, but I was still a kid to them. It definitely got awkward when I had to tell them there home was WAY over priced!

  4. Joe Loomer

    October 23, 2009 at 6:41 am

    Great scripts for that nervous time, Brandie. I have not faced this personally, but I have faced other issues since my wife and I are a team. To put it tactfully – there are times when she keeps me straight, and others when I keep my mouth shut ;).

    Navy Chief, Navy Pride

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