Ask the HR Expert

October 4, 2016

Q. Two of my staff members don’t get on, and I’m finding that I’m getting caught in the middle of their antagonism towards each other. I don’t want to get rid of either of them, but I’m at the stage where I feel I have no choice as it is affecting my customers. Do you have any advice on how to deal with this situation?

Bad atmospheres and attitude can be contagious, so you are right to tackle the issue now. Left to fester, it can create a hostile and difficult working environment for everyone.

It is vital for managers to know how and when to step in and sort out issues that could potentially cause a lot of harm to the business.

My advice is to call them into a meeting and explain how their behaviour is having an impact on work, their colleagues and you and that you are not going to allow this to continue. To improve the situation, hold individual meetings with them to try to understand the cause of their antagonism, and then all meet together to discuss the key issues and agree a positive way forward. Remind them that these meetings will be confidential and they must not involve other staff. Try to get them to understand the impact of their behaviour on the other without saying who is right or wrong. Put the agreed action plan in writing to both and set a review date. Stress that breaches of this agreed code of conduct will result in a disciplinary action. The situation won’t magically improve overnight, but hopefully they can learn to respect each other, and you, within the workplace.

This comes with a warning. It could get worse before it gets better and don’t be surprised if you end up with grievances, bullying and/or harassment claims from those involved. Don’t panic, but seek support from HR and remember a delay in action could result in much deeper and painful consequences for all concerned.

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