by JEANNE FLEMING, PH.D. and LEONARD SCHWARZ
Question: When I needed money to get my restaurant started, my good friend Dave lent me $12,000 with the proviso that I hire his son, who hopes to be a chef someday. The kid’s been working in the kitchen for three months now, and he’s all thumbs. Is there anything wrong with firing Ryan, or am I stuck with him until I pay off the loan, which won’t be for another year?
Our answer: A deal is a deal. So whether you’re stuck with Ryan hinges on exactly what the deal was you struck with his father. If, in return for the twelve grand, you promised to give Dave’s son a try-out in your kitchen, then you’re free to tell the Platebreak Kid to turn in his toque.
But if you effectively promised to give Ryan the opportunity to learn his craft - and it sure sounds as if that’s why Dave lent you the money - then the fact that the kid’s a disaster doesn’t get you off the hook.
Were Ryan stealing from you, of course you could fire him. Were he lazy and disrespectful, you’d be within bounds to insist that he shape up or leave. But being a klutz isn’t sufficient grounds for letting Ryan go - not if Dave believed the loan guaranteed an apprenticeship for his son.
And what if you and Dave never discussed the exact terms of Ryan’s employment? In that case, try to err on the side of keeping the kid. After all, your friend did you a big favor. You should try to do him one in return.