The Business Coach with Laura Murphy: “We were ripped off by a friend”

Question: “We employed a friend and were reluctant to challenge underperformance. When he left we realised he’d been dishonest as well. How do we prevent that from happening again?” Christine

Answer: A successful owner said to me that he’s a boss not a friend when it comes to business. It’s an attitude I wish more people would take as it would resolve problems such as this. You now know only too well the downside of not doing this.

The classic answer is to ensure that you have well managed, well understood policies, procedures and audit trails, implemented consistently and fairly. And if staff are dishonest, you have enough evidence for prosecution. That doesn’t address the behavioural aspects though which inherently prevented you from applying this to friends.

Fortunately you recognise the problem and can start again. Language is important here. Consistently talk about staff, not friends, to re-train your brain. If they want to work for you then they should go through the same recruitment process as any other potential employee so the staff pattern is set from the very beginning.

If you’re apprehensive about setting and keeping boundaries then practice wearing a metaphorical hat that for you bring back memories of discipline and distance. A headmaster’s mortar board perhaps or Great, Great Aunt Martha’s Sunday best. It’s amazing how playing the part quickly becomes a natural approach. It will be modified by your own interpretation and allow you to bring the necessary authority to your role as employer. Staff will instinctively respond to the very subtle change of body language and tone of voice.

The result will be parity of treatment across the workforce protecting you and your business.


Laura Murphy is the founder of mtc2 ltd, a management consultancy, training and coaching company.  Laura is an organisation development specialist and business coach.  If you have a problem then contact her at

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Names and details have been changed to protect confidentiality