below for the twelfth column of ASK ESMOND, the March 2003 edition.
Dear Ask Esmond,
A friend of mine is envious that I am working in our commonly desired field and he is, what he considers to be, "on the fringe". I try to be sensitive to this, but I find his constant moaning about his job and hints about how happy he would be if he worked where I work uncomfortable and exhausting.
So, NOW, positions are opening up at my company and he is winking and nudging. The truth is, I DO have a bit of a say in who gets hired at my company. But it's a small office, and I'm not sure that it would be beneficial to have two friends working in such confined quarters. And here's the kicker, the position he would be considered for is one that I could possibly be promoted into. So if he were to GET the job per my recommendation, I could possibly a)have a chance for another position were one to come up and we'd BOTH be happy OR (dum dum DUM) b) I'd essentially be working FOR HIM.
What do you do in a situation like this? Lie and say, "I have no power in the hiring capacity"? Or tell him the truth and voice my concerns? Or try to muster up some grace and push his resume keeping his best interest in mind? Am I being selfish? And what can I do to silence his eternal hinting?
I apologize for the length of this.
If you're apologizing for the length of that question, you obviously haven't been reading your Ask Esmond Archives, so lovingly curated by Shelktone. You might as well get plenty of question in, because I'm certainly going to type and type in answering you. So if only for aesthetic balance, long questions are welcomed.
You know, though, this time I think things are going to be a little bit different. Just this once, instead of writing and writing and blah blah blah about whatever marginally-related topics strike my fancy, I think I'm going to be direct. So, here goes.
We'll look briefly at sort of the opposite of this situation?what if you had a friend whose company you adored, and a position opened up at your place of work for which he was perfectly qualified? If he was that great and the match was that perfect, I bet you wouldn't hesitate to recommend him. Now let's take another view: if a really selfish person had a really whiny friend and a chance for a promotion of sorts, would the selfish person instead encourage the whiny friend to apply for the job? Certainly not; the selfish person wouldn't think twice about keeping the opportunity quiet.
Because you haven't recommended the friend, but you're still struggling with the decision, we can infer two things:
1. This "friend" really wouldn't be a perfect match for the job; and, 2. You're not a very selfish person.
The truth is somewhere in the middle. First of all, let's consider the ramifications of working with your friend. Really, what's the harm in having two friends working in such close quarters? No matter who takes the job, you're going to develop a relationship with this person. I'm sure you'll want that relationship to be enjoyable, won't you? In effect, you'll hope to become friendly with whoever gets hired, even if it's that office-only sort of friendly.
I'm sensing it's not that you don't want office dynamics spoiling your friendship as much as you don't want this "friend" to be part of your everyday professional life. You've described your friend as "envious," engaging in "constant moaning" and "eternal hinting." (Way to go on the hyperbole, by the way, I'm something of an overstater myself) To me, this friend just doesn't sound all that, you know, enjoyable. Some of our friends are best in small doses, like hot peppers and narcotics. Don't feel guilty for not wanting to add 40 hours a week to your allotment of "whiner time." It harkens back to the Ask Esmond golden rule: "I Will Not Spend Time in the Company of People I Do Not Enjoy." You simply seem to know your limits, and in the long run, that's best.
As for your concerns about being selfish, don't worry. Selfish people don't stop to consider the feelings of their friends when faced with dilemmas like this. In fact, selfish people don't really even consider these things dilemmas. A selfish person, in fact, wouldn't have even had the idea of telling the friend about the job. That's how they are. Selfish people are thoroughly ignorant about the situations of others. The fact that this warranted asking a complete stranger internet advice column guy demonstrates that you're still on the side of the angels.
Finally, about silencing that eternal hinting, I refer you back to that golden rule. You may be past due to put some distance between yourself and this sad character.