Ethical Issues for Friends in the Workplace

Working with a friend is fun, but raises some ethical concerns.
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Having friends at work can turn a boring job into a bearable one and make it easier to tolerate demanding bosses and rude customers. Despite the benefits, though, workplace friendships have the potential to cause ethical problems, especially if your friend is also your boss. You can prevent many of these problems by learning what to look out for when you and your friends work together.

Trust Issues

    You feel like you can trust your friends, so you're comfortable sharing your feelings and telling them your deepest secrets. Normally, this trust is a wonderful thing. When you're working with your friends, though, there's always a chance that one of them might use that trust against you. For example, if you tell a friend that you're sick of your boss or you've got a crush on a co-worker, she might spill the beans to other employees. That can cost you promotions or lead to serious embarrassment. Dr. Jan Yager, as reported by "The Independent," advises that you never tell a friend anything that she could use against you at work.

Special Treatment

    If you're friends with the boss, co-workers might believe that she's giving you special treatment, even if it isn't true. Your boss, as a friend, might give you privileges that other employees don't have, and this can lead to their jealousy of you. Workers won't consider it ethical for a manager to treat her friends better than other employees. When one of you is the boss, it's also harder to deliver difficult news, suggests a 2006 article from For example, if you're in charge and your friend's work isn't up to par, telling her that she needs to shape up puts you in an uncomfortable place.

Unqualified Workers

    If your boss hires her friends to work at your company, she might be passing over other candidates who are much more qualified for the position. She may choose someone simply on the basis of friendship, not because the person has the skills needed for the job. This is especially problematic when the boss puts a friend in an important position, such as one that handles the company's finances. Hiring unqualified workers can result in financial losses and poor work that other employees must fix.


    When you work in the same office with a friend, it's tempting to head over to her desk for a chat rather then spend time dealing with boring job-related drudgery. Doing so may be fun for you, but it also costs the company money, since you're on the clock but not doing your job. suggests saving chats with friends for after working hours or during your lunch break.

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