If you have a private practice in occupational therapy (or physical/speech therapy), you may need to expand and hire additional staff. Perhaps you may also need to hire another therapist, someone at the front desk, or someone for billing. Should you hire a friend that you know – someone you went to school with or worked with in the past? You know they have a good work ethic and are reliable. It’s probably a good idea to hire a friend than a stranger and have to go through the hiring process right? Here are some reasons why you should and why you should not hire a friend for your private practice.

Pros

Faster Hiring Process

Let’s start with hiring. While it can be costly, it is considered more time-consuming. Hiring involves putting a job posting in your community or online – or going to a job fair. Then you have to screen applicants, interview them, do a background check – maybe even get them up to speed with training. You can skip some or at least speed up some of these steps by hiring someone you know and save a lot of time.

Personality

One major benefit of hiring a friend is you probably get along well with them. You “click” with your friend. This can even make working with them more fun. This means less workplace drama (potentially).

Work Ethic

If you have worked with your friend in the past or when to school with them, you know how they work. They likely have a good work ethic and are professional – punctual, ethical, communicative, reliable, honest, and so on. These employees can be hard to find and hiring them can be a great asset to your business.

Cons

Management

This is where things begin to get awkward. Hiring your friend may seem like a good idea, but at the end of the day, you are their “boss” and/or “manager”. Therefore, it is not a question of if you need to manage, but when, you do. And for your business to do well, you or your employee will need to manage them. Sure, this may not necessarily involve micro-managing your friend, but there needs to be some level of management at some point as your business begins to get more clients and expands.

  • What happens if your friend is not doing their job?
  • What happens if they are late?
  • What happens if they ask for too many favors?
  • What happens if they refuse to learn a new billing system?
  • What happens if you catch them doing something unethical?
  • What happens if they take too long of a break?
  • What happens if they are on their phone too often?
  • What happens if a client complains about your friend?
  • What happens if your friend gets audited?

Things can get awkward real fast.

Pay

The reason you started your business may not have been for the money, although there is nothing wrong with occupational therapy entrepreneurs making a profit. Why shouldn’t they? Occupational therapists are providing a valuable service for their community and they should be compensated well for it.

When it comes to running a private practice, profits may be small – especially in the beginning. You may have a backlog of reimbursement from payor sources such as insurance companies. The business may be slow from a lack of clients. There is a pandemic. Whatever the reason – you may be limited in your finances.

The biggest downside to hiring a friend is – what happens when your friend asks for a raise? You may have to turn them down financially. Perhaps you feel bad and grant the raise. This could hurt your bottom line over the long term. What happens if your friend could be making more money elsewhere, would they want to leave? So again, things can get awkward again.

Besides pay, your friend may request other work-related things – PTO, time off, to leave early for the day. Would you make an exception for your friend but not your other employees? This can create ethical dilemmas for you. Furthermore, if other employees know that you are “friends”, things may get awkward this way.

Other Issues

While they may be your “friend” now, it is not impossible for other scenarios to happen. You hear about or may have even experienced situations such as friends moving in together for college and lots of drama happening – friendships broken, friend circles and relationships ending, you name it. Here are some possible work situations.

  • Your friend is not doing their job – this may often happen due to the awkwardness of “managing your friend”. It may have been with the best intentions, but there was no clear outlined expectation of responsibilities from the beginning.
  • Having to rate your friend poorly on an evaluation and breaking the news to them (…or not and lying about it).
  • Having to reprimand your friend.
  • Your friend quits and works for a competitor.
  • Your friend quits and starts their own business as your competitor.
  • Your friend spreads rumors about you and/or your business.
  • You lose business from clients complaining about your friend.
  • Your friend sues you.
  • You may have to fire your friend – poor performance, unethical, unprofessional, etc.
  • Workplace Gossip.
  • You feel bad for not granting your friend’s requests for benefits and grant them and therefore lose money.
  • You get anxious about going to work due to some “drama” that has occurred.
  • One friend may not get along with your other friend (hiring multiple friends).
  • You may end up doing more work (which is not why you hired an additional employee in the first place) due to the awkwardness of asking your friend to do the same job.
  • You may lose a friend (which you otherwise may not have – if you did not hire them in the first place).

Discussion

So sure, hiring can be a stressful and time-consuming process. However, due to issues such as ethics, awkwardness, drama, and management – it is more worthwhile to hire someone you are not “friends” with. There could potentially be legal issues as well.

Hiring these days is not difficult. There are many tools like online job boards like Indeed – many of them free. What matters is that you do it right in the first place and improve on your hiring process with experience. If you have systems in place such as screening of ineligible applicants, interview questions and process, background check, on-the-job peer evaluation, and most importantly – performance metrics – hiring makes more sense in the long run.

It is not worth the drama and trouble of hiring a friend when you can hire a candidate who is just as capable and perhaps outperforms your friend. Workplace issues are normal even in a well-run business. Many of these issues can occur with employees and you don’t want that person to be your “friend”.