Workplace is not a Place to Nourish Friendship

Employee Engagement, Employee Relations, Rewards and Recognition

– It’s a Challenge Time –

Let me just take you through the memory lanes of my life and introduce you to a friend of mine, Mr. Gaurav Sharma. We were neighbors for two years in Delhi. Mr. Gaurav is a Marketing professional & I am into HR. He did his MBA from a premier Management Institute and is an expert in his domain. Give him an assignment & you can rest your heart in peace. Words like an ambitious, go-getter, the dynamic will be the right adjectives to describe him. He always used to say – “I am like water and I can make my way through anything”. I fondly remember those times in the evening (after office hours) when we used to stroll down the beach road discussing the matters of mutual interest. We cherished the thought of working together. However, destiny had its say and soon I was off to Mauritius. But we stayed in touch.

Years later….

Years later, I came back to India to join IT Company as the Head – HR. My CEO was taking care of the Marketing function & was in search of a talented ‘Marketing Manager’. Of course, as you guessed it, Gaurav flashed in my mind as he also had the relevant experience of 7 years in the field. Within a month’s time, everything happened in quick succession – from referring to interview to appointment to that of onboarding. He compromised on the salary package (in spite of being a married man now) as the opportunity of working together in the same company weighed more to him.

The “Friendship” Time

Like every other new recruit, it was Gaurav’s day out with the company with duly scheduled induction. Later in the evening, we met for dinner. We had a long conversation to fill the gap that existed since the time we met last. From next day onwards, he was in full swing but ensured that our everyday interactions continued as it also enabled me to help him assimilate with the company culture. He exuded his happiness on the role offered; a key member of the CEO’s marketing team.

Time for the Twister

As many in the industry say that the honeymoon period for any new assignment ends in 3 – months, so was the case with him as the CEO shared his view on elevating a woman employee (with less experience…. around 4 years) as the ‘Team Manager’ with a proposal that Gaurav had to report to her. In spite of these changes, Gaurav never expressed his unhappiness in any form on the decision of the CEO. However, the fate had a different story to script with the creator being the CEO.

Three months later, the CEO informed me that he wanted Gaurav to leave the organization immediately as he did not like his poor communication & lethargy towards taking initiatives. This came as a shock to me as whatever was said could not be true about Gaurav. Quickly revering from the jolt, as a professional HR, I had to suggest the CEO to place Gaurav on Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) for at least a month to improve, failing which we would go ahead with his order. But the CEO had made up his mind. He was against PIP and said, “Gaurav has a poor attitude towards work. He is not a team player. He doesn’t follow instructions hence, I don’t think he will improve. There is no need for PIP. Just ask him to leave immediately. I am assigning this responsibility to you to supervise a smooth exit.”

The Night that had to end

I knew for certain that the reasons cited by the CEO were not genuine & there was something fishy. Within no time, the grapevine reached me about the intellectual/challenging questions that Gaurav placed to the newly made team manager (the woman referred in the earlier paragraph) with whom the CEO had a relationship.

While I was in the midst of the gloom, Gaurav came to my cabin to say the routine ‘goodbye for the day’. I couldn’t see straight into his eyes & reply half-heartedly. It was a sleepless night for me. With the kind of association I shared with Gaurav, it was not easy for me to communicate the CEO’s decision. I couldn’t even imagine his reaction to such a decision. But the night had to end & it ended in its style of leaving my eyes wide open through the dawn.

The D – Day

The next day was Friday, not the 13th. But all the way to the office, I cursed it. The irony was that I had to tell this to him 2 days prior to his birthday and also a day before his wife was expected to deliver their child. I was carrying a heavy head and it reflected on my face as I noticed a couple of employees inquiring if all was ok. In the evening, I called Gaurav to my cabin and had to do which I dreaded the most.

Me: Gaurav, I am sorry to share that the management is not happy with your performance. Since there is no other alternative role within, your association with the company ceases today.

Shocked Gaurav: Any specific reason? I will do whatever to improve I promise.

Me: There is no specific reason. I have instructions from the management that your services be terminated as your manager doesn’t want you in his team.

Gaurav: Ok, let’s keep professionalism at bay for a few moments. Tell me as a friend, don’t you think whatever is happening is not right?

His words pierced my heart. I couldn’t respond to his question. He left my cabin. As he left, tears rolled down my cheeks. Next day, he called me several times but I didn’t answer his call. He sent messages that he wanted to meet me before leaving for Delhi. I neither replied to his messages nor met him as I was completely soaked in guilt that didn’t give me the courage to face him. A year later, I too moved out of that company. Even today we interact with each other whenever we cross our way, but the warmth is missing. In the entire process, I learned my lesson of taking the risk of losing a good friend to a bad colleague.

Hence friends, all that I would like to share is –

  • Don’t recommend your friends to the company when you yourself are new there.
  • Learn about the Manager before recommending your friend for an open job position.
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