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Joyce K. Reynolds is an expert Business Coach who works with CEOs, Sr. Execs, entrepreneurs and countless others providing knowledge, solutions, motivation and support that assist her clientele in successfully meeting workplace challenges. Find out more about Joyce's coaching practice.

Working for a friend

Question: My friend is a surgeon, I am an RN. She is starting a new practice and wants me to work for her. Our relationship is professional, but we are also friends. We have talked and think that this could work. We both have strong clinical skills, can communicate well and understand the physician/nurse/patient relationship well. What is the general consensus? Can friends work for friends?

Answer: Not surprisingly, the general consensus is that hiring friends can be as unwise as hiring family. That there are more risks than rewards. Stephen W. Gibson put it this way, "If there were Ten Commandments of entrepreneurial success, surely one of them would be "Thou shalt not hire thy neighbor, thy neighbor's wife, thy wife's brother, thy sister-in-law, or thy best friend." However, with careful evaluation and eyes-wide-open, successful exceptions do occur. With the latter in mind, there are a number of things you'll want to consider in determining whether or not you - as a friend - could successfully become a valued employee to your surgeon associate.

Depending on the depth of your friendship, you'll want to be aware of the risk that - if things don't go as planned - you might someday face losing your job as well as a friendship. If you get past that thought, think about how you'd feel limiting your social contacts once you are in the doctor's employ so as avoid personal interactions that might have potential to bring up or increase workplace problems. (And, understand, there WILL be problems of one sort or another). If you are primarily professional associates rather than 'best' friends, it will be easier to limit your outside time together until you get the boss/employee relationship properly fixed. In short, if you both agree that you can maintain an arm's-length relationship, it will make it easier for both of you to stay squarely focused on the proprieties of business.

A major plus that you mention is that you would clearly be an employee hired for specific expertise that your surgeon employer is familiar with and respects. In addition, it sounds as if you share important common goals and considerations and what sounds like equally strong work ethic - good bases for developing a successful business relationship.

All in all and under ideal circumstances, this could work. But, you must clearly base your decision on the facts rather than on feelings that you two can 'make it work' when lots of others can't. If you've carefully scrutinized the good, the bad, the potential ugly and are still prone to taking the chance, be sure to get things in writing. Get a detailed job description that lays out just what your employer/friend is expecting of you. Get clear on the financial arrangements - what will earn you a raise or not. After all the considerations, you have any hesitancies, don't do it.

If, on the other hand, you both agree that you are the best-qualified person for the position, have covered the potential pitfalls and put into place important safeguards like written agreements, there's a good chance your strong professional skills will combine well with you personal fondness for each other resulting in a good business arrangement.

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Disclaimer: The information in this column is intended to provide the reader with general ideas or concepts to be used as part of a broader base of knowledge they collect to determine their own best course of action and solutions most suitable for solving their workplace challenges. The information in this column is not guaranteed to be the appropriate solution for each individual.