Can Business and Friendship ‘Work’ Together?

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It’s all about balance.

Ever heard the phrase, “you can’t hire your friends?” It seems like there’s some kind of taboo involved when it comes to hiring your friends or becoming friends with the people you hire.

This is understandable, and it’s pretty easy to imagine that plenty of business-related blunders have happened as a result of buddying up with the people who work for you.

Recently, I came across an interesting article that talks about the difficulties of an entrepreneur becoming friends with their employees.

Though it made a lot of valid points about the pros and cons, it concluded that being friends with the people you hire is—overall—a bad idea.

But does that mean that there’s just no way your employees can ever be your friends while still keeping your businesses healthy and long-lasting?

I happen to think that there IS a way. Why? Because I’ve discovered it for myself.

I’m not going to lie to you though, it’s not like I just got lucky and everything worked out perfectly from the beginning…

I had to learn a lot of important things along the way, but these were lessons that were needed in order to show me that successfully combining friendship and business comes down to one thing…


The relationship between respect and trust.

These two things typically share an inverse relationship. When you first meet your boss, for example, your respect for them is super high but your trust for them is low. This is because you don’t quite know them yet.

But as you get to know them, over time the respect goes down as the trust goes up.

This happens when you’re making friends normally as well.

That being the case, you can see where things get tricky. This is why it’s commonly advised that bosses don’t allow their employees to get to know them much at all. That way the respect always stays high.

But to me, there’s a clear difference between bosses and leaders in a company. Bosses work to inspire respect through fear, whereas leaders earn that respect.

And that earned respect can be built on trust.

I give all of my employees the chance to get to know me as a person, and I always take the chance to get to know them as well.

We often take hikes on this awesome nature trail close to our office. Those are great because they give me a chance to really connect with my employees. It’s just us and nature with very little distraction.

I like to engage in conversations with them where I explore their thoughts and ideas on what we’re doing as a company and how we can improve. Everybody has something of value they can offer.

As a leader, I believe you are nothing without your people. And your people are those who are not working for a paycheck, they are those who “believe what you believe,” as Simon Sinek says.

Your employees need to know what you stand for.

This is what inspires them to emotionally invest in not just your company, but your mission. This inspires them to be leaders themselves.

If you’re a business owner, you shouldn’t make your employees feel like they’re beneath you. They need to know that they have the responsibility to make an impact and contribute to the success of your company.

When they know they are making an impact, they will own their position. This is the level of commitment you want out of your people.

That’s when they become leaders within your company.

Then when they recognize you as their leader, an equilibrium between their respect and trust for you is reached.

They will know to be there for you as a friend, but will also be ready to get to work when it’s needed. This balance exists and is entirely possible to obtain with your employees.

That being said, these type of characteristics are what you should look for when you are hiring. Even though balancing respect and trust is possible, it does help to find people who possess a certain level of maturity to start with.

You should exercise good judgment in finding people of strong character to be your leaders.

So the bottom line is, I believe you can absolutely befriend the people you hire.

Bonding with your team will build not just loyalty for your company, but personal loyalty. That kind of commitment is what can really take your business to new heights.

Just be sure to exercise good judgment and keep an eye out for everyone’s respect-to-trust ratio. The right people will maintain that balance, and the wrong people will reveal themselves based on it.

Either way, you find out who your real friends and loyal employees are.

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2 Responses

  1. luigi Belmonte says:

    Congrats” But as you get to know them, over time the respect goes down as the trust goes up”. I enjoyed your letter, I receive many letters as people buy my shortstories and have nothing better to do but to comment on them, However only seldom I got something as good. Ciao and take care

  2. Carl says:

    I’ve regularly seen friendships outside of work lead to the corruption of professional relationships within it . It’s not just the people who form these friendships who are affected by them . Employees not regarded as ‘friends’ of the people concerned can find themselves in a situation where they’re challenging the behaviour of someone behaving unethically at work only to have a higher level manager step in and refuse to enforce procedures. I’ve seen people promoted over much more experienced business-committed folks simply due to the fact they play pool and go drinking with the boss. There’s a big difference between being professionally friendly and being actual friends and I recommend you usually stick to the first option otherwise it leads to corrosion in the workplace.

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