When employees become friends

A recent commentary column from Tom Gimbel, CEO of the LaSalle Network, caught my eye, as the conflict he addressed seemed one that I thought many marine businesses may be facing.

In the column, Gimbel discusses the mistake of holding onto an employee longer than he should have, but with the added complication that this employee had become something of a friend over the years. The employee, while a great individual producer, kept the business from evolving the way it needed to and caused Gimbel to make hiring decisions based on not wanting entry-level personnel to report to the person.

The atmosphere this breeds in a company is one of “playing favorites” and “immunity” for employees that are buddy-buddy with the boss. It can be toxic for a working environment and cause several good employees to leave.

Eventually, Gimbel let the employee go, making this note about the friendship he and his employee shared:

“At the end of the day, if a relationship is severed because you had to do what was in the best interest of the company, then the relationship wasn’t strong to begin with.”

This column is a cautionary tale that begs a very important question: Are you keeping that employee for the right reasons? Is that employee standing in the way of your company’s growth, or the growth of the rest of your workforce?

In an industry with many seasoned, experienced employees, it is likely that you may have an employee in your own business who has become a friend. This individual may be a person you continue to move around to find ways to make sure he/she stays with you.

It’s an awkward, complicated, emotional problem. However, it is to the detriment of your business’s success if you do not address it.

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