Friends falling out at work – Grounds for dismissal?

Posted by Thomas Sutherland

Employment & HR - Morecrofts

Thu 24th, Sep

How does the famous FRIENDS TV show theme tune go?  ‘I’ll be there for you, when the rain starts to pour. I’ll be there for you, like I’ve been there before…’  Naturally, being a massive FRIENDS fan, I just had to get part of the theme tune in there when using the show as the subject for a blog.  

Whilst it would be ironic to quote Chandler’s famous line to Rachel of “I’m not so good with the advice… Can I interest you in a sarcastic comment?”, I’ll do my best to stay on track.  So, in all seriousness, what could happen if friends fall out at work and could you even be sacked for it?

Well, let’s explore the question further.  And to do so, let’s look at the rather unusual case of Mealing v Edmonds t/a The Gatehouse Diner. 

In this case, a very small employer had to deal with a tricky problem.  Namely, what to do with two former friends who had fallen out with each other so badly they struggled to even speak to each other.  Things got to such an extreme stage that the employer was forced to initiate disciplinary action against both of them.

Importantly, one employee’s behaviour improved after the disciplinary meeting (we’ll call this employee ‘Phoebe’).  Phoebe told her employer that she would speak to her colleague in future.  Unfortunately, the other employee (whom we will name ‘Monica’) merely stated that she would ‘think about it’ and continued to refuse to speak to Phoebe.

Due to Monica’s utter refusal to speak to Phoebe, and the negative atmosphere this caused in the workplace, she was eventually dismissed on grounds of her behaviour towards Phoebe.  A further consideration of the employer in doing so was finding out about a series of abusive text messages sent to Phoebe by Monica.  These text messages used foul language and made clear that Monica would not try to maintain a professional relationship with Phoebe as requested by her employer.  

In light of the facts, and despite the employer’s procedure being technically flawed, the tribunal ruled that Monica’s behaviour was so poor that she should not receive any compensation.  In particular, the tribunal rejected Monica’s argument that it was unfair for the employer to dismiss her and not Phoebe as well.  This was primarily because Phoebe’s behaviour had improved following the discussion with her employer, whilst Monica’s had not.

It is important to note various specific circumstances of the case, one of the main ones being that the business was a small, cosy diner in which each employee had close proximity to another.  This meant that a problem in individual working relationships would have a big effect on customer service, as well as workplace morale and productivity.

At the end of the day, an employee is never going to be sacked for simply falling out with a colleague.  It is the ongoing effects of the falling out on the workplace which is crucial.  Therefore, unless the falling out has a major effect on the running of the business, colleagues will still have to work with those individuals they are not especially keen on!  

But don’t worry, there’s always that FRIENDS boxset and an accompanying cuppa when you get home…

Does your business need mediation services? Contact Morecrofts now.

Read More
Leave a comment

Happy 9th Birthday 6th Door Ltd

Tue 19th, May

As I’m leaning on the stand-up desk in my makeshift home office, that over the weeks has been turned into a video and podcast recording studio

How to take back control of your water costs

Fri 13th, Mar

While most businesses already have a comprehensive strategy in place for their electricity and gas consumption, water management is often overlooked.

How to choose an energy consultancy

Fri 13th, Mar

Most business owners recognise the advantages of shopping around for the best energy deal, but without the time, resource and expertise to find the best tariff, it can be an almost impossible task.

Business energy: Don’t get caught out by rollover rates

Fri 13th, Mar

As a busy business owner, you may feel there are not enough hours in the day to secure your next energy contract. You know you’ll get around to it, but when you’ll get around to it is another matter.

Business water matters – Top 3 water saving tips

Fri 13th, Mar

Water is often referred to as ‘the forgotten utility’. While many large businesses are clearly focussed on their comprehensive energy strategies, it seems many are yet to implement a strategy around managing their water usage.

Know where your cloud data is stored or risk a GDPR fine

Thu 27th, Feb

For businesses who have chosen cloud-based data hosting services there’s a temptation to relax and think “great, we’re paying someone else to take care of our data, we don’t need to worry about it any more.”

Transparency plans could slow down region’s business growth

Thu 27th, Feb

Efforts by regional start-up initiatives that have led to Merseyside outperforming the rest of the UK when it comes to business growth could be hampered by new government proposals, a leading legal expert has claimed.

Backup or risk losing your business

Thu 13th, Feb

Maintaining a robust backup is hard work, it’s important to not only build the correct solution for your business and trust your IT support provider to look after it, but to also maintain a sense of urgency as a business owner to...

Information Destruction and Compliant Data Handling in the Education Sector

Thu 13th, Feb

Identity theft costs the UK economy £5.4 billion and a recent BSIA report showed 169,592 cases of identity fraud, representing an increase of 49% over the previous year.

Give Your Business Utilities a Refresh for 2020

Mon 20th, Jan

January is a time for reflection for most people and this includes business owners, with the new year bringing with it an opportunity to take stock of performance during the past 12 months, create goals for the year ahead, and ensure...