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Friendship Court: My Friend's a Terrible Boss!

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"Don't poop where you eat!" Is it a good idea to work for your friend?

Vanessa from New York writes: I need to drag my friend Barbara into "The Friendship Court." I love Barbara and we have been friends for twenty-five years, but our relationship is in trouble. I am a graphic artist and I was gainfully employed (even in this economy) when I let Barbara cajole me into coming to work for her at her company.

women working at a design firm

My instincts told me not to mix business with pleasure, but Barbara was very persistent and confident this would not ruin our friendship. She also agreed to match my salary and added some perks I had not had before, so I took the job. Two weeks into it, I knew it was a mistake. Barbara treats me terribly at work. She is a tyrant and she takes every opportunity she can to make it clear that she is the boss. None of her employees like her, and sadly, I don't like the Barbara that shows up to the office either. My prior employer already filled my position so there is no going back. Help!

Leslie Adler: Vanessa, my grandma always said "Don't s*%t [poop] where you eat." If you didn't know what that meant before, you do now. There is "no going back," but one can always go forward. You have to talk to Barbara and communicate that agreeing to work for her was a mistake and let her know if things don't change regarding the way she treats you at work, you will have to look for a new employer. You must tell her also that you do not want to end up looking for a new friend (to replace her), and that if she values your friendship but can't agree to change her ways at the office, she needs to give you her assurance that she won't put you out on the street before you find a job. Hopefully, this will enable you to stay friends, although I have to ask, now that you have seen this side of Barbara, will you ever feel the same way about her?

Do you think it is a good idea to work for a friend?

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7 comments so far | Post a comment now
Dels May 8, 2009, 11:09 AM

No, not a good idea. The last company I worked for had a lot of Friends hiring Friends and it was always problematic. Issues aroused from preferential treatment, disciplining old behaviours, sales and crediting/praising good work. The worst issue was when personal business became everyday “water fountain” conversation. For me particularly, it was difficult being a supervisor to a subordinate who was close personal friends with my direct boss.

Your advice/counsel Ms. Adler, however, was very insightful and sound. Right on!

Kirstie May 8, 2009, 1:23 PM

I guess I’m in a pretty unique situation - I work in a catering hall, and pretty much EVERYONE there is related to someone else. I got the job through my mom, who’s this one’s kid, who’s cousins with who, etc. There’s only a small handful of people without some kind of connection.

And of course, a lot of us are young (the majority of us are late high school-college aged kids) so if we weren’t friends beforehand, we’re all definitely friends now!

Strange, but it’s actually really never caused problems where I work. It’s very much a “family” business, though not in the traditional sense.

Marge May 8, 2009, 3:52 PM

You are lucky Kirstie! But I think Leslie’s advice is dead on. Generally it isn’t a good idea to work for a friend.

Ironic May 8, 2009, 3:54 PM

My grandma said the same thing!!! Age does bring wisdom…and even though it can sometimes work out, you can’t have a problem if you don’t create it. In other words, keep your friends and your work separate.

Fashion Merchandising October 12, 2010, 1:57 PM

Good! I facebooked this

Merchant Account December 22, 2010, 5:20 PM

to not play devils advocate but couldnt be that painless

Chu Balin January 23, 2011, 7:24 PM

Good! I facebooked this

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