Why you should never, ever hire a friend or family member

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I am here to explain why it’s not a great idea to hire a friend or somebody close to you in any capacity. Whether it be a personal friend you’re trying to help or somebody recommended to you by a friend or through a pastor or even a neighbor or friend of a friend, “Just Say NO!”

I am certainly not mean, nor void of the emotional connection between human beings that generally lends most of us to help out our friends and family in times of financial need. But, let me explain why I feel so strongly about this.

Why we try to help friends

Typically this is when people are at their very lowest, and several emotions play into effect. The dominant emotion here, obviously, is fear. The fear of losing everything you worked for your entire life. The fear of losing your home if you can’t find a job within a certain amount of time or marital discord because of financial problems. Almost anyone I know would try to help out anyone in this situation, especially if they were a family member or close friend. Nobody wants to see someone struggle that’s close to them. It’s hard on everyone.

My suggestion is going to be a tough one: Do not come to the rescue by hiring family or friends, even if you are in the position to do so. Sure, give them all the money you can afford. Tell them they don’t have to pay you back until they’re well back on their feet. But do not under any circumstance allow them into your organization, primarily if you built it up on your own. I’d also like to tell you why to I’d never hire a friend, relative, neighbor, or a friend of a friend. It just never works out. And, above all else never hire one of your children’s friends parents or anyone you are attached to socially. You will not only be frustrated, but you will lose friends and relatives because it just does not work. I guarantee if you do you will dread that day the rest of your life. I learned that the hard way. Not once, not twice, but several times. Even when it feels like you’re the only solution, I must implore you not to do this.

I’ve hired thousands of people over the years and believe me when I say this: It will backfire. I owned a third-party healthcare reimbursement corporation. Our specialty was large, integrated, health care delivery systems and hospital groups, typically comprised of at least five or more hospitals, with associated faculty physician groups, and at least 250 physician participants. Our primary goal was to secure payment from insurance corporations.

Too close to home

One day my daughter came home saying her friend Mia was no longer allowed to play with her. I asked my daughter, “What do you mean?” My daughter replied,  “Well, mom, you fired her mother! How do you think that was going to make me feel? You know what I mean, Mom? My gosh, why would you do that, mom?”

That remark came from a fourth-grader. How do you explain to a 10-year-old that your friend’s mom just didn’t want to do her job at your company? That she didn’t listen to you, she made all the other employees uncomfortable by never following the rules, and therefore couldn’t work well with everybody else? It’s a challenging situation.

Not to mention these children will be in the same private school together for the next six years, and on top of that high school for the next four years, most likely. And then, I will meet them at all the benefit and fundraisers associated with these schools. Also, in this particular case, the husband was a bond trader who worked with my brother. So, as you can see, it had multiple layers of personal involvement, which unfortunately turned everyone sour against each other.

When you hire folks you have a relationship with outside of work, there’s a tendency for them to feel that they’re different than everyone else at your organization because of that connection. If you hire a close friend, they certainly have a different relationship than the one you’d have with a stranger you hired off of a street. That is the crux of the problem. If you have a friend who doesn’t like to hear you tell them what to do, which rules to follow, and why you’re reprimanding them, you’re going to have an issue.

Mainly, most of my employees have come from a program to get women off welfare, designated and designed by my senator in Illinois. These are typically women who have been on welfare for generations and are now in a job that not only offers salary and benefits but, more importantly, growth opportunities and a skill set which could be used at different organizations. In addition to healthcare and insurance, my company offered educational assistance, and many other substantial benefits designed to help change the lives of generations of dependencies on our welfare system.

Due to these advanced grants, many of my employees were allowed to go as far and wide as they desired in the industry. I put them in a professional work program, and in a profession where women had a high probability of success. The harder they worked, their outlook was limitless.

Those who became very good at their jobs changed generations of lifelong poverty. Initially, many of these women did not want to come off welfare,  and work was a tough place for the first few months. But, after seeing the amount of money they could make, the majority of these women became exemplary employees. They had so much ambition and pride because now they were supporting most of their extended families. These women worked very hard and followed the rules, for the most part, because this was an extraordinary opportunity and roadmap for success that they had never been offered before.

In contrast, the women I hired (because their husbands lost their high-paying jobs) felt they had privilege because they were better or different than these particular employees. This attitude led to palatable strife in my organization. There was to be no inequality. The bottom line was, whoever works the hardest, and does the best work reaps the biggest rewards. It sounds simple, right? Believe me; it should be. But it’s not when you have close personal friends, and family working for you alongside people who have worked very diligently to get hired into your organization.

Don’t mix business with pleasure EVER

When you tell friends what they need to do — the ones that feel like they’re doing you a favor — they typically look at you like you are calling them stupid. This is when the entitled mentality comes out. “Who are you to tell me what to do?’ ‘Well, it would because I’m your boss.”

I want to stress that there are appreciative, kind, and thankful human beings who are my friends, who worked for me and did fantastically. However, those cases were so infrequent that it’s difficult even mentioning them because they were not the rule; they were the exception.

A vast majority of previous close relationships and distant family think they’re special, and that most of the rules don’t apply to them. Typical office rules that exist in every single office around the country, all seemed to be subject to interpretation when you hire your friends. They seem much more like suggestions then the actual bylaws you took the time and effort to write when you incorporated your organization.

Having to continually go over the rules about taking unapproved breaks, unapproved time off, and spending hours of personal time on the phone began to grate on me. It was so frustrating. I knew I had to get rid of several people or I was going to blow a gasket. It was so unfair that it became a complete division within my own office even though it was something I had worked very hard to avoid.

Family ties

Then there’s the situation with my brother. He had been a successful bond trader and saw that my company had an opening for a sales position. He said he could do the job in his sleep, but couldn’t answer questions I asked about the healthcare industry. I did not hire him. Now, to say that I got a little bit of strife from my family for not taking my brother in and teaching him a trade would have been an understatement. The one upside you have about hiring a friend or relative is you know their personality. You know who can work hard and who’s going to take advantage of you almost out of the gate. I knew my brother didn’t have the mental capacity, nor the skill set needed to be successful in this particular industry.

In closing, this is your opportunity for personal success. You are going to have so many new, high-stress situations, that will require so much direct attention, you will not have time for distractions. That’s the bottom line. We all have limited time, and within that time you want to extrapolate out any nonsense that gets in the way. We have to make major decisions that will either determine the success of your organization or the failure of your organization. So do yourself a favor and offer to write a short note or loan for a friend, but steer far and clear of hiring them.

Marymargarette Grace is the former CEO of e-healthcare, producer, and content developer of “SIXTIESOMETHINGS,” a healthcare show for women 55 and up.