Absolutely. After all, if you’re both thriving at work and the chemistry sparks, many of those you weren’t friends before, will soon become your friends. So, aren’t we just fooling ourselves if we believe we can really separate friendship from the workplace? On this page of my website, I created a sort of yearbook for each company where I worked. This format felt right, because in so many ways, these work experiences and relationships are as deep, if not deeper, than those college relationships built so many years ago.

Some of my very first co-workers are still my friends to this day, like Dan… We worked together on Pantene in the early 2000’s, and reunited in 2019 when we were both living in Seattle. Man, I’d love the chance to work with this intelligent, passionate man again! 

So much fun to celebrate Dan’s birthday 2yrs ago!

Vivienne was my supervisor as I took on leadership of our APA group at P&G… and today, she’s the godmother to my child. I’m deeply grateful to both her and her husband for two decades of mentorship, care and love. They are examples of leaders turned not just friends, but family.

Vivienne and me at a corporate event in 2004

Lin first worked for me at Apple, and later came to join IHG as our VP marketing. Eventually, as I left the company, she took on the CMO role. Along the way, we became dear friends who shopped together, travelled together, and who would take a bullet for one another.

I first met Shu at Starbucks when she was leading social media for our marketing team. Right off the bat, I was so impressed by her sharp intelligence, warm engagement and confidence. A little while later, it was my great pleasure to hire her into McCann as our General Manager and more recently, promote her to Managing Director. I think of her not just as friend, but as my friend and sister. 

Today, McCann employs loads of experienced creative leaders with amazing agency experience. You know, when I first joined the company, I had never even met our China CFO, but am pretty sure he and I will be friends for life. Now, coming on two years into the role, I’m thrilled that our leadership team is fully staffed – yes, with many old and new friends. Even more fulfilling, is watching new bonds of friendship develop between these amazing people.

The McCann Worldgroup China leadership team

Now, should we always expect friendships to develop at work?

Definitely not. These are precious opportunities that sometimes hit the beautiful trifecta of company culture + roles and responsibilities + personal connection. In fact, I can think of many productive relationships that wouldn’t be classified as friendships, but grounded in mutual respect. Because I guess we all recognize that some friends are better off not working together, and sometimes, co-workers share a great professional relationship without crossing that line into personal space.

So should you hire your friends? Is there a downside to working with friends?

Personally, I don’t see it. If we’re friends and have previous experience working together, we’re starting with a solid foundation of trust. Each knows how the other operates and strong lines of communication have already been established. Of course, we will get into debates and of course, we won’t always agree. But in these cases, I find that our history provides an advantage, not a disadvantage.

What do you guys think? What are your concerns, and do you have any stories to share?