Law Blog

You Run Your Business. We'll Protect It.

When hiring employees, be careful of employee “friends”

April 26, 2017

Large corporations often offer incentives to employees to recommend friends to apply for open positions. The friend benefits by possibly getting a job, the employee benefits by getting a bonus, and the business benefits by filling an open role. While this may work well in corporations where there isn’t much interactivity between employee and friend, this can have devastating consequences for small business owners.

In a small business, it’s very likely that everyone knows everyone else. The daily interaction between Employee A and every one else is likely essential to the drive of the business. However, what happens when Employee A’s friend gets hired, then things go wrong? Here are some things to consider when asking employees if they know people to fill a position at your company:

1. Interviewing A Friend. Employee Sara has a friend, John, whom Sara feels would be perfect for the open graphic designer role. You interview John, but you’re not sold on his qualifications and decide to hire someone else. The problem here is that, if not properly handled, Sara may actually feel a bit betrayed. Therefore, here’s a plan of attack. Tell Sara upfront that you will make a decision regardless of her relationship with John. Let her know that there will be no favoritism for John just because he’s her friend, and to expect that he might not get the job; and if she agrees with those rules, John will be interviewed. Additionally, after you interview John, you should talk to Sara before rendering your decision. Explain to her what happened and why you don’t feel John is the right fit for the job. She may not agree with you, but at least she’ll feel like she was part of the process.

2. Hiring A Friend. Alternatively, John turned out to be a great candidate and he’s slated to start next week. Sara and John are really excited to be working together, and things go great for the first few weeks. Unfortunately, John is a much better designer than anyone anticipated and you realize that he’d be perfect for the new national campaign you just assigned to Sara. The problem, of course, is that both John and Sara will have some issues with this decision. Sara will be upset that she was taken off the job – as if she’s not good enough – and John will be upset that his friend got the shaft. Instead, you may need to allow them to work together for the time being to keep morale high.

3. Firing A Friend. John works at your company for a few months, but his attitude is terrible. You decide that it’s time for John to go, but you’re concerned about how firing him will affect Sara. The best thing to do here is to talk with Sara first, explain the situation, and ask her if she can think of an alternative to letting him go. Give Sara the opportunity to participate. While there’s no guarantee that this won’t blow up in your face, your chances of keeping Sara content should be much higher. If she gets mad at you afterwards, she was going to be mad no matter what. At least this way, you had the opportunity to let her know that she’s important to your business.

It’s always a tricky situation when hiring the friend on an employee. Do it sparingly, and always have a plan for adverse decisions. Remember, they were friends before they were coworkers, so they likely have a much deeper bond than you expect.

Join Our Mailing List

Ready to Get Started?

Let us know you're ready to speak with one of our attorneys.

Get Started