how do I tell my friend I don’t want to hire her?

A reader writes:

I manage a small tourist shop. It gets rather busy during the summer, and I’m planning on hiring two people to help cover shifts.

One of my friends wants me to hire her. She said that she needs more money to help pay bills. I’m reluctant to, because she rage-quit almost every job she’s had in the last three years. She’s not supposed to be driving, but does it anyway. She told me she’d only want 20 hours a week and that she doesn’t want to be scheduled before 3 pm because of another job. But that won’t work with the schedule.

How do I inform her that I don’t feel comfortable hiring her, especially with her track record? I like being friends with her, but I need to hire someone that won’t storm out or complain about the hours.

I answer this question — and three others — over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • Giving a presentation with a coworker who swears a lot
  • Letting people know I’ll be slower to respond while caring for my father
  • How important are the first 100 days?

{ 77 comments… read them below }

  1. OrdinaryJoe*

    I think her restrictions on when she can and can’t work, plus no more than 20 hrs gives you the perfect out! I’d also stop talking to her about your plans to hire and wait until you have hired people and they start OR she brings it up again.

    1. Jenny*

      I was just going to say this! It’s honest feedback without jeopardizing their friendship.

      I’m sorta interested in knowing how she’s not supposed to be driving – suspended license? No insurance? Because if she ends up needing to be firmer, but still wanting to preserve the friendship, it could be a matter of “i need someone who can legally drive.”

      1. Cmdrshprd*

        But OP might not actually need the people to drive and a friend might know/see through that. Plus if OP cites that as the reason and friend ends up getting her ability to legally drive it might make the friend think they can be a shoe in. Similar to the hours example if OP says I need someone with more than 20 hours and friend says okay I can do 30/40, OP will then have to disclose the true reason anyways.

      2. Splendid Colors*

        Even if the friend can’t drive because of a medical reason, if OP needs someone who can drive on the job, that means the friend can’t demand a reasonable accommodation for not driving. OP isn’t required to waive a basic job duty, especially if it’s a very small business.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      All of this: Stop drawing attention to it, but fortunately her lack of availability gives you a perfect, non-personal out.

    3. Irish Teacher*

      Yeah, I think the easiest thing might be to say something like, “sorry, that won’t work with the schedule. We need somebody who can work earlier shifts.”

      1. Anonymous*

        the problem with ‘reasons’ is that they invite argument — what if she agrees she can work earlier (having rage quit that earlier job for example). The OP doesn’t want to hire her so she is best off saying that. It can be ‘Oh I would never hire a close friend — great way to ruin a friendship.’ Or she can just ignore it unless the friend gets very aggressive, but make it a hard no, not an excuse that can be debated.

        1. Wildbow*

          I had very much the same thought, but it’s lose-lose all around.

          I had a similar situation with a childhood best friend (since day 1, I was placed in the incubator next to his) who started talking about us moving out & away from home, being roommates, but I knew we would’ve been a terminally bad fit. I brought up how my dad had moved in with his best friend back in college and it had ended their friendship for 15 years, so I was leery.

          But that alone sort of poisoned the friendship.

          Doing some mental chess ahead of the conversation between OP and their friend, I’d point to the car issue, on top of scheduling. Saying you need someone who could drive if needed and an employee driving without a license poses an insurance liability is a lot harder to get around than an issue with scheduling, which gets a “Scheduling’s the issue? I guess I’ll adjust” response.

    4. AcademiaNut*

      I think I’d stick with the “I don’t hire friends” and go with that. It’s a useful policy in the first place, and the LW shouldn’t be doing it even with friends she respects professionally.

      Any explanations about hours, or driving, could be met by the friend saying “Actually, I could work 30 hours/after 3pm/will get my license back soon” and then the LW is stuck trying to say “I think you would be a terrible employee and I wouldn’t hire you under any circumstances” in a way that doesn’t result in rage-quitting the friendship.

      As far as honesty goes – someone who has rage quit multiple jobs and genuinely expects a friend to hire her is unlikely to take honest feedback about her employment history gracefully. It’s better than having to fire her later, but it’s still not going to go over well.

  2. ENFP in Texas*

    “She told me she’d only want 20 hours a week and that she doesn’t want to be scheduled before 3 pm because of another job. But that won’t work with the schedule.”

    There you go. “I’m sorry, but the position requires 30 hours per week and is during the day, so this will not be an option for you.”

    1. goddessoftransitory*

      We get those kinds of applications allll the time. “I only want to work between eleven and three on Mondays.” Well, see, we don’t need that time slot filled, it’s the slowest day of the week. We need people who can work evenings and weekends, when all the fun stuff people want to do is going on.

      1. Turquoisecow*

        Yeah when I worked retail people were always complaining about not getting enough hours and the bosses would always point out that they didn’t have a lot of availability so that limited things. Like high school student who wants to work 3-7 or 4-8 on weekdays and have weekends off isn’t going to get a lot of hours because we already have plenty of other people working those hours and the 3-8 window isn’t that busy anyway. Volunteer to work any time Saturday or Sunday afternoon and we’ll be happy to give you a bunch of those hours! Or if you’re a college student who can work earlier afternoons or mornings where we’re not busy but we have fewer high school students able to cover the people who work those shifts and want time off.

        1. Becky*

          “Like high school student who wants to work 3-7 or 4-8 on weekdays and have weekends off isn’t going to get a lot of hours because we already have plenty of other people working those hours and the 3-8 window isn’t that busy anyway.”

          You say that like its capricious for a high schooler to not be able to work during school hours. For a weekday that isn’t a “want” for a high schooler, it is literally “can’t” work other times. Not only is there school, many states also have laws around when, how late or how long minors can work. Additionally it is not unreasonable for a minor to want weekends off. School + work is the equivalent of at least a full time plus a part time job.

          1. Katara's side braids*

            I didn’t read their comment as criticizing high schoolers for their availability. That is what it is. Their comment was very specific to people who have low availability *and* complain that they’re not getting enough hours. No one faults them for being in school during school hours, but if their available hours are also everyone else’s available hours (because most of the staff is in high school), they’re just not going to get that many hours. Complaining won’t change that.

          2. HearTwoFour*

            I don’t think Turquoisecow was faulting high schoolers for not being available WHILE THEY’RE AT SCHOOL. It was clearly the weekends off, and for a business owner looking to fill those hours, that would be annoying.

            1. constant_craving*

              I don’t know that people’s availability should be considered annoying. Workable or unworkable, sure, but annoying seems like an unnecessarily charged way of looking at it. Not to mention that there are often school-related weekend commitments that are too inconsistently scheduled to make working weekends possible.

          3. Turquoisecow*

            Yeah that’s not what I was saying at all. As a former working high school student I completely understand the limitations on their time. But if they also want weekends off they need to understand that’s not going to get them many hours, and for adults without such limitations, they need to be more available.

            1. Becky*

              Sorry, I think it was the word “want” that rubbed me wrong there–I get what you are saying about limited availability means limited hours.

          4. Gal Friday*

            I didn’t read it that way. It is the weekends. As a small business owner that is our biggest challenge is to get someone who can work consistently on the weekend days – we don’t even have night hours so one could theoretically work the morning / afternoon and have their weekend evening free.

  3. PNWorker*

    Some may think it’s a cop-out, but what they say about working with friends and family can totally apply here. She may guilt the LW for that, but… it is good practice.

    1. MassMatt*

      …especially given the friend’s track record of rage-quitting jobs. Better keep her in the “friend” category and not have the friendship blown up also.

      It’s off the subject, but I am giving a side-eye to “she not supposed to drive, but does it anyway”. That generally happens with people that repeatedly drink and drive, or have a disability that affects their ability to drive safely. Red flag!

      1. pope suburban*

        Yes, the overall context made me have some real doubts about this person’s qualities as a human being and a friend, not just as an employee. This letter writer doesn’t list a single positive about this person, which is fairly unusual even in advice columns- usually it’s, “Jane is lovely and helped me a great deal when I had surgery, but she doesn’t have the resume for the job,” or, “I’ve known Jack a long time and he’s like family, but he’s very flaky and my company is deadline-focused.” This is so thoroughly negative that I wonder if this is someone that the letter writer really needs in their life in general. Though if she’s belligerent and indifferent to others’ safety, I can see why it might be a difficult relationship to end!

        1. yvve*

          i dont know if id read that much into it. why is it necessary for every single person to extensively disclaim that their friend/partner/whoever is a great person, really! when asking a straightforward question about how to handle a conflict? The OP clearly said “i like being friends with her”

        2. Dust Bunny*

          I mean, I have a friend with whom I like hanging out but whom I would never, ever, want to work with or rely on for anything important. I still consider them a friend, just not a close one. It’s not that I can’t trust him, it’s that I know how far I can trust him before my expectations will be disappointed.

        3. rebelwithmouseyhair*

          Yes. This situation happened to me in reverse, with a friend wanting to hire me. As I listed the reasons I didn’t want to work for her, I realised I didn’t really want to be friends with her either. Too much drama.

      2. Inkognyto*

        “I do what I want! other people need to follow rules.” Follows both of those things.

        They wouldn’t be friends once a single incident happened, and “hey we’re friends just give me some slack”

    2. My Name is Mudd*

      This is what I would do. Sorry, I won’t work with friends, because I want to continue to be friends with you, and that won’t be the case if you become my employee.

    3. Anonymous*

      Exactly. ‘Oh I would never hire a close friend — been there, done that, don’t have that friend anymore.’ Make a firm policy on any thing you really don’t want to do — go to MLM parties, lend your car, lend your tools — and then always say no and let the person know you have a firm policy on that ‘I never . . . just my policy.’

    4. Beth*

      Yeah, I remember a not-very-close friend who went through a very difficult time (almost entirely self-inflicted), and was leaning on me to get my company to hire her. I managed to avoid being pinned down on the question, thank heavens. She would have been a TERRIBLE employee, and it would have backfired very badly on me.

  4. Antilles*

    Is #4’s dad in politics or a history/war buff? Because the only time I’ve ever heard about “100 days” as a specific measure of performance is related to politicians, dating back to Napoleon’s 1815 military campaign.
    Never once heard of 100 days being a key marker in any other context – quarterly evaluations or 90-day probationary periods sure, but not 100 days specifically.

    1. pally*

      There’s some books out there with titles like:

      Your First 100 Days in a New Executive Job
      The New Leaders 100 Days Action Plan

      And several with 90-day action plans along the lines of:

      The First 90 Days -Strategies for Getting Up to Speed Faster

    2. Baron*

      Came here to say this. “First 100 days” is a (weird, arbitrary, media-driven) metric for US presidents. I’m not surprised it’s seeping into other areas, though.

      1. just some guy*

        It’s been a thing in Australian politics for quite a while now. Parties were releasing plans for their first 100 days in office at least as far back as 1998.

    3. learnedthehardway*

      It’s pretty common for senior level roles to have expectations outlined right in the job description about what the hired candidate should be able to deliver within certain time frames – and some of the time frames are pretty short. Usually, for the short term objectives, the expectations are that the person has met with key stakeholders, developed a budget, and developed a strategy for how they are going to achieve the longer term objectives. Usually, the time frame is 90-100 days, for the shorter term expectations.

    4. Ridiculous Penguin*

      I’ve had more than one job where I had to come up with a plan for my first 90 days as the final stage of the interview process… and in one instance those became my 90-day goals (even though I clearly had no idea whether they were realistic until I actually had the job — and they weren’t for reasons I could not predict, including the company pivoting 45 days in.). Yes, it was a startup. And, yes, I stupidly moved across the world after about 30 days because the 12-hour time difference was too much. Ultimately we mutually parted ways after six months.

    5. Fuel Injector*

      Is 90 vs 100 really what’s important? The key take away is that how you spend your initial period in the job can set you up for success or not during your tenure. If 100 is not your favorite arbitrary number, pick a different arbitrary number.

      1. Antilles*

        It’s not crucial no, it just struck me as a very specific arbitrary number to use that I’d never really encountered as a specific marker outside of politics.
        The post makes it seem like Dad thinks 100 days is some common metric to use but I hadn’t encountered it so I was curious about that specific number rather than the (in my experience more common) 90 days aka three months.
        Just struck my curiosity, that’s all – in the same way that when I heard about our software having a 91-day patch cycle, I was like “huh that’s a very precise number” (answer: patch day is always on Tuesday so the cycle will be a multiple of 7; 13 weeks means exactly four updates per year, 13×7=91).

      2. Anonymous*

        This. The first 3 months need to be intentional — there is not one size fits all behavior — but you need to be super mindful of creating the impression you want to make — it really sticks. In many management jobs, the best thing to do first is to talk individually to the new team to gather their insights about what is working and isn’t — you can then openly use their input as you make needed changes. It might have been obvious stuff you were doing anyway, but consulting people and actually listening can be a powerful way to start.

    6. Gatekept by oncology*

      100 days is also a key marker for bone marrow transplant success/survival/risks which is what I immediately thought of.

    7. RedinSC*

      Every place I’ve worked has had a first 90 and 180 days. and typically that first 90 days is your probationary period where if you don’t meet your marks, you’re gone. My friend’s office it’s 100 days. So, yeah, I think it’s still pretty common out there in the wild.

  5. Cathie from Canada*

    On the “100 days” question — one thing I always did whenever I started a new job was to rearrange my office furniture – sometimes only a little, but enough to be noticeable.
    It was my way to demonstrate gently to the rest of the office that things had changed.

    1. MassMatt*

      That’s better than the technique recommended to a friend of mine—fire someone.

      1. A Simple Narwhal*

        Yikes! It sure would let me know things had changed – and that it was time to gtfo!

      2. Festively Dressed Earl*

        Only if that someone qualifies as a piece of office furniture. Does a missing stair count as a fixture?

  6. Fuel Injector*


    “just young and a bit inexperienced in professional settings.”

    I have worked with people of all ages and all levels of seniority who had a potty mouth. If you don’t want her swearing either at all or at a particular event, just let her know kindly and directly. Don’t make it about her being young or inexperienced.

    1. MassMatt*

      She was a hotshot new to a pretty senior role. She got the advice to be sure to fire someone (and sometimes fire and hire someone) from multiple people in a very highly regarded business school. She was kind of appalled but also figuring maybe all these people can’t be wrong.

      To be honest, several places I’ve worked had some dead wood that could have/should have been fired. But to have an agenda to do it just to make a point… that is sleazy.

  7. Good Enough For Government Work*

    LW2: Yeah, just tell her.

    Speaking as someone with a potty mouth myself, it might be a blessing for someone to tell her to knock it off more generally. I swear like a sailor – in fact, I love the f-bomb so much that I literally have a lipstick called that – but it’s important to know when it just isn’t suitable. In my last workplace, we never saw customers and almost all calls took place in meeting rooms, so we swore a LOT. I loved it! But I started a new job this week, and have removed almost all bad language from my vocabulary until I get a proper sense of what’s appropriate in this new setting.

    Ideally, you’d hope that anyone old enough to be in the workplace full time would have a better ability to read the room — but since she doesn’t, it would be a kindness to give her a nudge.

    1. londonedit*

      Yes. I live and work somewhere where swearing is fairly common and no one really clutches their pearls about it – but there are levels of appropriateness and it’s important to understand what those are. I would never swear in a meeting with an author or in a formal company meeting. In general chat with colleagues, I probably would swear up to and including the f-word, but I also would never swear in an aggressive manner (it’s more like swearing-as-punctuation, or ‘the ******* printer’s jammed again’) and I certainly wouldn’t swear AT someone. Same as how I’m comfortable swearing around my sister and my friends, but not in front of my mum. You’ve got to tone it down when you join a new workplace, until you’re comfortable in the environment and you find out what the appropriate level of sweariness is.

  8. HonorBox*

    OP3 – I’m really sorry about your father.

    I think if you can tell people who you work with closely the specifics of why you’ll be harder to reach, it may help the message land even better. People are generally very understanding. For a general out of office message, just indicate that you’re going to be away from the office and will be checking messages as you’re able. I don’t know if there’s a coffee shop, or even a McDonald’s near where your father is, but perhaps you’re able to get there a few times a week to look at email and catch up.

    But don’t worry too much about your email or anything else work-related, especially if you can delegate to others during this time. Take the time you have with your father and focus on that.

  9. negligent apparitions*

    LW3: I just dealt with the same situation. (Sorry about your dad. Cancer sucks.) I individually told the people I communicate with most frequently as I was communicating with them about other things (for example, trying to wrap up something before headed home to see him). I didn’t feel any sort of way about telling them the facts – “My dad is receiving end of life care, so my schedule is unpredictable. I’ll respond as I can.”

  10. Harper the Other One*

    Oh, no, OP, don’t hire that friend. In fact, if you haven’t hired friends before, make it your policy immediately that you do not do that. I’d you have, tell her you’ve realized it was an error and you aren’t going to repeat it.

    Also, how much of a friend is this friend if she’s pressuring you so much to give her work at the expense of what’s best for you and your business? Just something to think about – is this actually a reciprocal relationship?

  11. El l*

    Easy. “Look, you’re my friend. But I don’t want to be your boss. My policy is to not be in that position with my friends, and in general to not mix friends and money.

    “It’ll just make our relationship more complex, and I’m not going to do that.”

    1. BubbleTea*

      There are other jobs that Friend can do, and other people LW can hire. If Friend’s response is “but other people won’t hire me and they won’t be as nice to me as you would!”, that’s an extra reason why this is a terrible idea.

  12. Bookworm*

    Agree with the others re: friend. Just let her know that her availability just won’t work. This is a common rejection for people in school, other commitments, etc.

    1. constant_craving*

      I initially thought that, but I’d be worried it would come back up when/if friend’s availability changes. Might be safer to just go the “I don’t hire friends” route.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Hopefully if that happens the LW will have hired someone else and won’t have a position open.

        But I agree that she should just make a no hiring friends policy.

  13. Michelle Smith*

    LW2: Another thing to please keep in mind – you can control your actions and words, but not those of other people. She may curse during the presentation. I think it’s unlikely if you follow Alison’s advice, but it still could happen. Try to practice how you will handle it in the moment. You may not be able to help being mortified, but you can control how you continue the presentation – staying calm and collected, not allowing her language choices to throw you off your game. Someone else’s choices, even a co-presenter’s, do not need to negatively impact your reputation. Thinking through how you’ll avoid demonstrating your potential mortification will hopefully help reduce your anxiety about this presentation.

    1. Cohort 1*

      If I were at a presentation where one of the presenters littered her part with foul language, I would definitely think poorly of both persons. “If you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.”

      1. Jennifer Strange*

        The fact that you would think poorly of someone who put in the position of presenting with someone who curses says more about you than it does about the LW (and about their co-worker for that matter).

        1. Dust Bunny*

          Oh, please–I have never known anyone who didn’t extrapolate at least a bit based on who someone associated with. At best, it says that this company might not set clear standards for their presenters, and both presenters work for them, so . . . they’re the kind of people who work for a place that apparently has a low bar. It’s not unreasonable to wonder what kind of place that is and if either of these presenters have any clue how inappropriate and unprofessional it is to swear during a presentation.

          1. Jennifer Strange*

            Sure, I may think poorly about the company, but I’m not going to ding the presenting partner who may have no control of the situation.

      2. not a hippo*

        That’s a bit much. This isn’t a parent with an undisciplined child throwing stuff at people in a store or someone who is choosing to associate themselves with a problematic person.

        This is a coworker who in no way can control the way their colleague speaks.

      3. Int*

        Is the idea that people are able to control other people’s actions, or that people get to choose who their coworkers are?

  14. Michelle Smith*

    LW3: Would a mobile hotspot help ease your mind? My nonprofit pays for one for me to use when I’m traveling for work and don’t have access to internet. If you had one that you could use while at your father’s to check for urgent messages, maybe that could reduce your concern about needing an auto-responder.

  15. TwinklySparkles*

    OP3, I’m sorry for your father’s situation and I very much respect your decision to spend time with him. I agree with HonorBox, about delegating and putting work to one side if you can.

    However, if having internet might reduce your overall stress, you might see if Starlink covers your Dad’s address. Starlink seems expensive. Used equipment might be a way to save a bit.

    If driving to free WiFi would take too long, you might ask around and see if someone closer to your Dad has (relatively) good internet and might let you share the cost for a time.

    Again, I’m sorry about your Dad.

    1. RedinSC*

      Or, see if there’s a cell phone provider who’s stronger in that area and use your phone as a hot spot? I know where I live one provider works well, and others are limited. It could just mean getting a phone plan for a few months to do this.

  16. TeapotNinja*

    The first 100 days aren’t going to make or break your career, in most jobs. Seasonal and temporary jobs are obviously an exception, as are really horrible breaches of professional norms or work policies.

    What matters more is continued improvement.

  17. Raida*

    Option 1) I need staffing for X and Y, your schedule doesn’t work with that.
    – it’s clear, specific, and states that it’s just impossible – at this time. It’s also not personal.

    Option 2) [Friend] I would not hire you. You need money because you rage-quit jobs. I’m not going to put my business in that position, and I’d better not hear you’re blaming me for your bank balance after this.
    – it’s clear, specific, and tells them they SUCK and you aren’t going to be the solution for them SUCKING. super personal.

    Option 3) [Friend] I would not hire you. I think that as friends we’re great but as your boss? We’d clash and end up ruining our friendship and I love A B C about us.
    – it’s clear, it says that no matter what you’ll never hire them. it’s very personal, but in a positive way that’s about valuing about each other.

    Personally I’d go with 3, and then point to 1 as an example of how the friendship blurs the rules with work relationship if I’m making special efforts for them. And if I got frustrated with them, I’d make an excuse to go calm down so that I didn’t blurt out 2.

  18. Betsy S*

    About the F-Bombs: a few jobs ago, my employer was bought by a company that was trying to project a scrappy image. In the next all-hands, one of the new leaders spoke first and littered his presentation with F-bombs.

    Then each Director spoke in turn, and it was clear that they felt obliged to show they were team players by throwing at least one F-bomb in imitation. It was both funny and very sad to watch. A couple of them *really* struggled to choke it out.

    My respect for my $grandboss was greatly increased when he did NOT go along with the crowd.

  19. JelloStapler*

    “that won’t work for us”


    Then “I’ve already given you my answer, please stop asking.”

  20. Lasslisa*

    LW2 might really do their coworker a favor by mentioning it. I grew up in an environment (town, etc) where swearing wasn’t really seen as a big deal, including my first job out of college. Swearing at someone would be bad, just like yelling at or insulting them with other language would, but a casual “Looks like the database got entirely f*cked up by…” or “hey, I know this client is really sh*tty to work with, but..” was just, words you use sometimes to describe things, and “what the f*ck” wouldn’t even bat an eye as an equivalent to “what on earth” or “what in heaven’s name”.

    So learning that there *are* people out there who notice these specific words and consider them as different from other words was something that I did have to learn, and don’t think I would have just “known” not to swear in front of investors unless they were, like, preschool teachers. I picked it up mostly third hand / by listening to people talk about their own word choices or be judgy about third parties who aren’t me – things like reading this question, actually, which has reminded me anew that I should probably try to pick the non-swear emphasis options when I can.

  21. rebelwithmouseyhair*

    It’s funny I had the opposite experience: a former friend who wanted to hire me. I was looking for a job, but this would have been me and her and her husband with whom she had a stormy relationship, cooped up together in one office. And she was a total narcissist and I’m sure she’d have used her knowledge of my private life to get me to work more, like suggesting that her elder daughter babysat mine while I worked late.

    I got out of it by changing how I talked about my work. I’m very conscientious, and I’m sure it shines through when I talk about my work, it’s something she valued in me as a potential employee. So I mentioned how the “damn boss interrupted me while I was filing my nails” (true, but I was fixing a horrid hangnail while also mulling over a problem, looking at a website that was supposed to help. I deliberately failed to mention that it was a multi-tasking situation). I also talked about how I felt it was impossible to be friendly with my boss because I don’t like taking orders, meaning I automatically dislike the person who gives them (I’m so much better freelancing!) and it would be a pity to spoil our friendship.
    OP you could start doing the same thing. You could ask the friend why she rage-quit, and point out that actually, you could see her boss’s point of view and would react the same, so it wouldn’t work out like that. Then I’d smoothly segue to “so you see I’d much rather preserve our friendship than inject a boss/employee element that would end up making us hate each other”.

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