Is it possible to mix business with friends - or is it a workplace disaster waiting to happen?

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As Jamie Oliver tells The Times that working with friends is a recipe for disaster, we wondered - can it ever work? Getting along with our coworkers amid stress, deadlines and irritating everyday habits can be hard at the best of times, but mixing business and friendship might make it even worse.

Imagine if the person sat opposite your desk was a close, personal friend. Would your daily office dilemmas simply fade away? Or would they be replaced by a newer, more complex flurry of friend based fracas.

We reached out to Managing Director at Personal Career Management,  Corinne Mills  to find out - here are her top ten rules to live by if you’re looking to take the plunge and introduce your friends into the workplace.

1. Don’t pair up

“If you’re working with a friend for an organisation, as opposed to your own business, it’s really important that you don’t get seen as a ‘pair’ as this can lead to a whole host of problems - such as a loss of confidentiality. Indeed some colleagues may think they’re unable to tell one of you something for fear that the other will automatically find out. Similarly, you may be likely to lose out on job opportunities or progression because management may view you as a unit together. Being too close at work with a friend can spoil your chances both socially and logistically.”

2. Do make sure you’re work compatible

“If you’re working together in your own business you need to ensure your talents are complementary to each other rather than both being good at the same thing, as this will allow you to cover more economic bases. Once you’ve established who is best suited to which jobs, you can then divvy up the jobs neither of you want to do to, just to keep things fair.”

3. Don’t gossip

“However tempting it may be, don’t spend all your time gossiping together. Leave this to outside the office as it is likely be viewed as ‘cliquey’ and can tend to leave people feeling excluded and out of the loop.”

4. Do compartmentalise

“Try to keep boundaries firmly in place so that there’s a difference between your relationship at work and your relationship outside of work. If you don’t, you can run into problems whereby you find yourself acting unprofessionally. For example, covering for a friend pulling a ‘sickie’ or picking up the slack of another’s workload. Ultimately, acting in this manner could interfere with both your quality of work and also potentially land you in trouble (lying for someone who is claiming to be ill can be classed as gross misconduct).”

5. Don’t lose your professional hat

“Normally when you fall out with colleagues at work you can leave your troubles at the door. However, it becomes much more emotional when friends are involved. You must remember to keep your professional hat on in the way that you deal with each other and try not to bring you personal friendship into the picture.”

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6. Do be clear on finance

“If you’re working alongside a friend in your own business, you have to be really clear about financial boundaries. For example, who’s invested what, how much money is being put into different areas and who is watching the constant cash flow. You need to have those uncomfortable conversations right at the start and get everything out on the table. You also need to consider what you will do financially if everything goes pear shaped.”

7. Don’t become over-reliant

“When you start a new job most people have to build and develop relationships, casting their net widely. However, when working with a friend it can be easy to become over reliant and blinkered to just hanging out with each other. Try not to let a friendship at work mean you spend every bit of the day together, leaving no room for anyone else - go out and meet other people. Network and spend time with other departments - you can be with each other outside of work.”

8. Do keep it open

“If you get into an argument when you work for your own business it’s important to keep the line of communication really open. Essentially you should never go into business with somebody unless you can have totally honest and brutal conversations with them - because at the end of the day that’s what businesses are about. You’re likely to be investing a lot of your time, money and livelihood, so it’s imperative that you can talk frankly with any partners you’re working with. If you think you may be too shy or intimidated by your friend to speak openly then going into business with them is not a good idea.”

9. Don’t compensate for each other

“If you work closely or in the same team together it’s likely that your skills are going to differ and you’ll will both excel at different tasks. If there is something one of you is less strong on it can help as you can work to encourage each other. Alternatively however, it can become negative if you start to help too much and pull the weight for a friend who is struggling. In the long run you’re not doing them any favours by not letting them stand on their own two feet. Ultimately, it can lead to greater work-related anxieties and difficulties.”

10. Do assess if the friendship is right for you

“Some friendships are more constructive than others and can bring out the best in people, while others can bring out the worst. You need to ask yourself if your friendship is healthy and appropriate. If one of you is really dragging the other down or causing more grief than joy then it might be worth seriously thinking about finding another job or business away from them.”

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