Avoiding Favouritism – Daniel de Gruijter @ GE Bootcamp 2018

3. Daniel @ GE Bootcamp - The one where I fired my own girlfriend

This blog post is part 3 of a series of 7 posts, transcribed from a presentation by Daniel de Gruijter on business & entrepreneurship during the Global Entrepreneurship Bootcamp 2018, titled: “Why you should f*ck up fast & often”. Watch the full presentation here: https://youtu.be/0XqF5ZtkGw8.

During the Global Entrepreneurship Bootcamp 2018, Incitement Cofounder & CEO, Daniel de Gruijter, shares 7 stories about ‘Why you should f*ck up fast & often’, and how each of those failures taught him valuable lessons on business, entrepreneurship, hiring, leadership, and more.

Scroll down to watch the video.


Don’t Be Brown-Nosing

In a previous company I worked there was a habit of growth of people in the company brown-nosing their way up. The yes-men, the yay-sayers, whoever agreed with the boss was the one who would grow up the ladder fastest. As a result the people who were closest to the CEO – quote en quote “friends” – were the people who used to receive the most credit, perks, rewards, and recognition. 

Relationships Affect Credit

The spouse was also a part of the business. And you could see that the relationship affects who gets what done. Even though there are people who perform better, somebody who performed less, but was liked more gained more credit. It’s normal, people favour people they like. I felt like I would be able do this differently.

We were running a project with the Ministry of Finance two years ago. It was a very intense project that was called Volunteering for International Professionals (VIP). We had to recruit 10 different non-profit organisations, fly in 5 professional volunteers with 5+ years work experience, deploy them in the organisation, develop a business framework for them, measure their progress, and help them push their social businesses into the market to further or better their overall impact. 

We realised we were short on manpower during the start of the project, we had underestimated the scope. My girlfriend has a background in Management Consulting, is highly capable, very intelligent and was available. So I thought, let’s bring her in – we needed people. She joined to work on the VIP project with us. It went great. The client was happy, the participants were happy, and my colleagues rushed up to me to tell me how well she had been doing.

As an entrepreneur who is always on the lookout for talent to bring into the business, I was like “How can I not hire her, after the results that she’s shown?”, knowing in the back of my head that our personal relationship will affect this, and that typically it is a bad idea to hire your spouses or partner – especially after what I saw as favouritism in this previous company. However, I thought, I’ve seen it happen from up close, I know the pitfalls…

Avoid Favouritism, Even When There Isn’t Any

We had a lot of conversations about how we should manage this relationship, how we should keep our personal relationship separate from the professional relationship, how we should not bring the office into the home and vice versa. We spoke about this almost on a daily basis. We thought that we were extremely aware of what was happening. But something was brewing in the company, in the team.

No matter how hard we tried, no matter how much effort we put into making sure that our relationship didn’t affect anybody else around us, regardless of that there was still the perception that that was the case, that there was favouritism.

It was difficult for people to approach about how they feel. It’s a delicate situation, and nobody wants to be insensitive, or hurt someone, We were all very close friends also. So it became a very difficult situation altogether. When that came to the surface, when we realised that that was the case, we immediately spoke extensively with each team member, asked each of them to speak with me openly and transparently, and only then it became apparent to me; all while my actions had been perceived as favouritism, despite trying so hard to avoid it.

Regardless of how much effort you put into managing a relationship, a love-relationship specifically, the moment that relationship is brought into the company, in spite of your efforts to avoid favouritism, it will always be perceived as such – regardless of whether it is or isn’t.

Don’t Hire Your Significant Other

Don’t hire the people closest to you. Of course this is not completely black and white, there are exceptions. There are cases where it does work. It’s a grey area with lots of hooks and eyes. The slightest imbalance can have a large impact, so I believe it’s just not worth it.

Our personal relationship was on the verge of breaking down, and so I begged her to leave; “I cannot fire you because you are extremely competent and didn’t do anything wrong, but if you stay both our love- and work relationship will be on the line.” I respect her deeply for the decision she made, though it was very hard on her, and to this day I feel guilt for having put her on the spot the way I did. 

Watch: Avoiding Favouritism

Watch All F*ck Ups & Failures Here

1. The one with the lazy Malay
2. The one where they think I’m gay
3. The one where I fired my girlfriend 
4. The one with the bipolar girlfriend 
5. The one with Sheldon Cooper
6. The one where I got arrested 
7. The one where we got evicted

Or watch the full presentation by Daniel de Gruijter on business & entrepreneurship during GE Bootcamp 2018 here:

Why you should f*ck up fast & often (https://youtu.be/0XqF5ZtkGw8)

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