Some thoughts on working for friends

Working for friends can destroy the friendship really easily. It can work out well, but it is risky. It’s important to not just assume that it will work out fine because you like each other.

An equal friendship is a very different type of relationship than employer-employee. Having both relationships with someone is complicated.

There are three major things I know of that can happen:

The boss uses their position as an employer to pressure their friends into doing things that aren’t work-related, or aren’t within the employee’s actual duties.

  • eg: getting a friend to plan the office Christmas party and cook all the food
  • getting a friend to cover lots of shifts that other people flake on

The worker relies on the friendship to get away with things that aren’t normally acceptable from an employee.

  • eg: stealing stuff from the office
  • talking down to other workers
  • bossing around coworkers inappropriately
  • or having a much better work schedule than everyone else
  • or showing up late all the time
  • or, more generally speaking, using friendship to avoid criticism
  • including taking it personally when the boss-friend says they’re doing something wrong

If you’re working for a friend, or employing a friend, make sure you can handle the different power relationship that goes along with employment. And that you can keep track of which things are work contexts, and which things are friendship contexts.