After a significant blogging hiatus its time I picked back up with writing but unfortunately I’m struck with a nasty dose of writers block and so I wanted to reiterate a post I made a while about the regular occurrence of when candidates walk into our offices to tell us that they are looking for new role because they went to work for a mate and it didn’t work out.
Its often very tempting to go and work for an “old friend”. someone who knows what you are like and accepts you for who you are but more often than not we find it doesn’t work out and that the outcome is a breakdown in the friendship that was there originally and a loss of employment for someone and occasionally both parties.
Firstly it’s hard for friends to make tough calls with regards to a friend. The coldest toughest manager on earth has an immediate conflict of interest the moment he brings a friend into his team. As we all know sometimes as managers unpleasant calls have to be made and not always with regards to firing people. Sometimes we have to take an account and move it elsewhere. Sometimes we have to say things that need to be said about performance (more about that in a minute) behaviour, attitude and even appearance!. Over time we form social bonds with team members anyway and these things can still be challenging to do with a team member that we have known a while let alone with an old friend and so they often don’t get done.
Secondly it’s hard for a friend to kick some backside with another friend. The relationship dynamic is simply different. people will argue with us until they are blue in the face before they go to work with a friend that they will be able to divide their working and personal relationships but they simply cannot and do not. You can’t put someone on a performance review on a Friday and go for Sunday dinner two days later. Its going to come up in conversation along with “pass me the mint sauce”. Conversely it can be very challenging to tell a friend that you are struggling and need help. Nobody wants to confess to a friend that they are not as good as they made out that they were in the pub or on the golf course or over dinner.
The personal relationship loses its equanimity. One of the parties is the “Boss” and one is the “subordinate” and that is very different to a genuine friendship.
I like to think that my friends respect me and that they have a powerful belief that I’m good at what I do. I’d like to think think I’m admired and respected by them. Imagine if we worked together and they had to find out exactly what I’m really like. They would find things out about me that I’d prefer they didn’t know and I would find things out about them too. Equally it s embarrassing for a friend to know exactly what you earned last year.
When people go off and WFOAM (work for an old mate) it often follows a difficult career period leading up to that point. the individual concerned may have had a few jobs too many and they come out with the old line “It’s not perfect, but he’s a devil i know and after the last couple of years I’ve had……….”. that’s the problem though – He is a devil you know and you have a good solid preconceived idea of how each other will behave. Both of your cards are marked before you even start with each other. There is no honeymoon period where the candidate is at his best trying to impress the new boss and the same applies to the manager.
Probably the number one reason why its a bad idea to go and work for an old mate is that is is almost always a prelude to an enormous due diligence failure on the part of the candidate in the job market. How can the job be bad if my mate recommends it? the candidate is convinced about the role by sheer nature of the fact that this old mate is a good guy and if he has taken the job there it must be ok and doesn’t do anything like the due diligence he might ordinarily do with a “proper” job. It is also highly likely that the job itself is a much weaker match to the individuals actual skill set and so at best is subject to chance in terms of its success and doomed to failure at worst.
So what to do?
1. before you meet your old mate for lunch – do the due diligence you would do if a recruiter you didn’t know asked you to go to an interview. Get a job description (they probably wont have one as your mate will be sneaking headcount through the business and trying to avoid undertaking a proper and thorough recruitment campaign) . Get the books off companies house and rip the company and the job to pieces.
2. Ask yourself why you are interested . Is it your mate or the job?
3. Ask yourself what the implications will be if it goes wrong?
It can work though sometimes.One of the most financially successful people I know hired an old and very close friend many years ago and they still work together now. They both became very wealthy men in the process but both mourn the loss of their friend. The dynamic simply changed and became different. As friends they drifted apart. Disagreements took place in the boardroom and whilst they were both set up financially for life they both lost an awful lot.
Remember. Business is Business and friends are friends.