Employee from Hell: Refereeing

 

Betty from South Carolina wrote:

“I have two employees who just don’t get along with each other. Individually, they are great employees, but when they’re together I spend all my time refereeing. This is driving me crazy…”

It’s tough when you have employees who won’t play nicely together. And this is one of those situations where the most common strategy for fixing things is often the least effective. Let’s begin with what not to do:

A. Bring them into your office and hash things out

This is the most common of strategies. But if you’re their boss – even if you are a trained mediator – this idea will backfire more often than it will work. (Unless you’ve done some pre-work, as outlined in option #2, below). Oh, sure, your employees might say the right things with you sitting there in the office, but the dysfunction might actually intensify afterwards.

B. Ignore it

This issue is not likely to go away on its own. And if you allow the behavior to continue, it will begin to affect everyone else on the team as well.

Here are two options that can work:

1. Split them up

If your team is large enough that you can split them up, do it. Is this taking the easy way out? Maybe. But the benefits to them, you, and the workplace can greatly outweigh the potential risks.

2. Learn, Meet, Take the Blame

Talk to each person independently, and get their perspectives as to what’s wrong. Then meet with the two of them, and apologize for creating an environment that has caused the rift. Validate each of their positions, and point out the things you could or should have done to correct things. This approach disrupts the mutual blame game between them. They will respect you for taking the heat on your shoulders, and you will have opened a door for a renewed relationship.

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