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Bringing friendship into the workplace
March 24, 2010 9:52 AM   Subscribe

Moving to a new city. A good friend is a manager at a local company and has a job open - should I take it? (If only it were that easy...)

My spouse & I are moving in late April. I'm leaving my current job next week and haven't started looking seriously yet for a job in the new town. A good friend who lives in the new city called yesterday & we had a long conversation about a position she has open; it actually used to be her job until she was promoted. She thinks I'd enjoy it and be good at it, but she was very honest about some of the downsides.
- Pay is very low for a lot of work. The mental and physical demands can be high.
- I can't go into specifics, but in this industry the "clients" pretty commonly hate the "company." I'd have to deal with some negativity daily. There is often a measure of animosity between the staff & the people who pay for the service. I've found a few online reviews which all rate the company terribly. (But this is probably true for any business in this line of work.)
- Owner has "personality quirks" (her term); he hovers, highly demanding & at times illogical, expects utter loyalty but doesn't return said loyalty to you. He's also a former body-builder with a negative opinion of people less fit than him. I'm fat. I asked friend if this would be an issue with the owner. Her response is that 5 years ago it probably would have but she thinks that he's more understanding these days.
- Owner is "weird" about people taking time off. The company's time off policies are abysmal (they offer less than half the vacation/personal time that most companies do) and apparently staff needs to really "persuade" him to let them off whenever they need a day.
- Friend & I would need most of the same days off due to volunteer activities we're involved in. This could be challenging to get owner's approval.
- There's some drama involving the owner's fiance and mother, who work in another office -- but who seem to be responsible for extremely high staff turnover due to their personality problems. Fiance dislikes my friend and they have some negative history, but thankfully doesn't work directly with her. Friend thinks the fiance & mother will become non-issues however. The mother's retiring soon. And friend thinks that once the fiance marries the owner in a month, she'll be too preoccupied trying to make babies to keep making trouble in the office. (I have my doubts about this however.)
- I feel bad about the impact to my friend's personal credibility: Many people in our social circle, knowing her role, have asked her for a job in the past. She has turned them all down saying "I'll never, ever hire friends." (She did hire a good friend 2 years ago, which went very badly, & since then she has been totally against it). However, she would make an exception for me due to my skills & background, but she's worried how she'd handle that with our comrades when word gets out.

Upsides:
- The job is almost being handed to me. I wouldn't have to spend weeks or months hunting in an unfamiliar city.
- Working with a friend, I'd have an advocate to go to bat for me in the office, and I would be her support if times get tough. (I think this is part of why she's interested in having me there, since things have been challenging for her lately).
- Friend loves her job to bits; she's a real "true believer" in the company but is (thankfully) very blunt with me about all good & bad aspects of it.
- The job is in an awesome location, plenty of opportunity to meet people, problem-solve, and move around so my butt wouldn't be stuck in a chair all day.
- I'd get my own office, and possibly a part time assistant.
- Advancement & variety: It's a growing company & they need people to take the reigns on lots of new projects (training, web development, marketing, etc.)

So, given the pay, owner's personality, psycho fiance and associated drama, and crappy time-off policies, I'm not sure whether to go for it... or if I'd be smarter to start hunting right away for a job with better pay in a more familiar field, with more cluefull management. My friend would be 2 steps above me: I'd report to another person, who reports to my friend, who reports directly to the owner. But if I decide to take this, I made a commitment to my friend that I'd stay through the summer to get through a tough busy time. She is completely flexible and understanding if I decide it's not for me & move on after that. So.... mefites.... working with a friend: good or bad idea?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (14 answers total)
 
So, given the pay, owner's personality, psycho fiance and associated drama,

That's all I need. The life well lead is the life that steers clear of other people's soap operas. Unless you're planning on eventually writing a sit-com or some such for which this sounds like excellent research, I say BAD IDEA.
posted by philip-random at 9:57 AM on March 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


How desperate are you for money? How would friend feel if you took this job and only lasted a few months while you look for another one?
posted by CathyG at 10:11 AM on March 24, 2010


What the other two said, plus, how much does your friend rely on this job for money? While the "go to bat" for you is a plus, it could work in their disfavour. What if drama-company fired your friend for sticking up for you? How would your friend handle it? How would you handle it?
posted by kellyblah at 10:13 AM on March 24, 2010


How can this even possibly seem like a good idea to you?

There is so much WTF in the downsides that even if the upsides included the ability to crap gold coins, it still wouldn't be worth it.

Don't do it. Find a job with less psycho drama.
posted by crankylex at 10:15 AM on March 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


You have a rare, valuable piece of information... you know in advance a good number of the ways in which this particular job will suck. I wouldn't touch it with a ten-foot pole due to the time-off issues alone. Add in all the drama from above and the negativity from below, plus the potential for souring a friendship, and it just sounds like a lot of misery in the making, to be honest.

Also, what if the owner isn't as over his fat issues as your friend thinks? Maybe he's learned to keep his mouth shut but that doesn't mean he won't find more subtle ways to be a dick to you.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 10:26 AM on March 24, 2010


If this was for a long-term position, I would say hell to the no and be done with it. But if your friend is definitely okay with you being there for the summer alone, I would... consider it. There are definitely a ton of downsides, which you mentioned, but if you're correct about it being a good chance to network and meet other contacts. So if I were you, and worried about getting a job right away, I would take this one under the explicit agreement that it would be for the duration of the summer. That way, you get a chance to see the environment and have the option of choosing to stay on towards the end of the summer.

Be mindful of this while you're working there and maximize your new contacts in the city. Good luck!
posted by amicamentis at 10:32 AM on March 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh, wait! You mentioned the boss-guy is weird about taking time off. How will you be able to look for a new job if he is hovering and weird about you taking time off? Signs point to "No." as far as taking this job.
posted by kellyblah at 10:42 AM on March 24, 2010


It doesn't sound like a fun job. I am guessing you are getting all your information through a single source. I could give you a list like that for most jobs that I have had for a extended duration. Maybe get a another perspective.

Your experience may vary. But you shouldn't be complaining about your job for at least a couple of months.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 10:43 AM on March 24, 2010


Yeah, not seeing how the upside outweighs the multiple forms of pretty much guaranteed suckage-- which all seems like the creeping invasive kind that leads to emotional burnout and energy depletion, which will have a deleterious effect on every aspect of your life.

Even taking the job as a springboard to a better one is a risky gamble. Can you find another gig and get out of there before you get sucked in and stuck? Maybe, maybe not. Also, the whole thing about you and your friend being each other's emotional supports in a potentially abusive situation is a real red flag.

Whether you bail out or not, know that taking this job may well end up costing you this friendship.

You know how people say listen to what people tell you about themselves? Listen to what your friend is telling you about this job.
posted by ottereroticist at 10:43 AM on March 24, 2010


All jobs suck, to some extent. The trick is minimizing the suck such that it's tolerable. You're in the enviable position to know exactly how this jobs sucks beforehand. How will these particular job quirks affect your mental well being? Are they tolerable, given the pay? (This relationship changes based on how desperately you need a paycheck).

Personally, I'd be saying thanks, but no thanks. The crappy pay and the time off issues, never mind all the drama, would send me running the other way in a heartbeat. The friend aspect as this point would be irrelevant.
posted by cgg at 11:02 AM on March 24, 2010


If you plan on only having the job for the summer, are you going to list this job on your resume? If so, how do you plan on explaining why you were only with them for a couple of months if asked during an interview?

Also, the "mental and physical demands", combined with low pay and little time off would be enough for me to stay away.
posted by mtheshark at 11:10 AM on March 24, 2010


Don't walk away from this opportunity. Run. Fast.

And be grateful you have a friend who didn't sugarcoat it for you.
posted by futureisunwritten at 11:41 AM on March 24, 2010


Tell your friend you'll take the job as a temp while you look for a better job. Assess the job for yourself.
posted by theora55 at 11:56 AM on March 24, 2010


From the way that you've presented it, it's pretty clear that you've already made up your mind that this job is a poor fit. You don't give us any of the glowing reasons to take it, just the very obvious, very serious draw backs. Go with your gut and don't take the job.
posted by stoneweaver at 7:26 PM on March 24, 2010


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