Rein­ing in the of­fice’s dis­rup­tive duo

Stop­ping a feud be­tween two co-work­ers

The Hamilton Spectator - - Careers - MARIE G. MCIN­TYRE Marie G. McIn­tyre is a work­place coach and the au­thor of “Se­crets to Win­ning at Of­fice Pol­i­tics.” Send in ques­tions and get free coach­ing tips atc yourof­fice­, or fol­low her on Twit­ter @of­fice­coach.

Q: Two of my em­ploy­ees have an on­go­ing feud that cre­ates an un­pleas­ant en­vi­ron­ment in our of­fice. “Cheryl” and “Doug” work in ad­join­ing cu­bi­cles and find each other very ir­ri­tat­ing.

Cheryl gives Doug un­so­licited ad­vice about han­dling cus­tomer calls and makes snarky re­marks dur­ing his con­ver­sa­tions with co­work­ers. Doug is fed up with Cheryl’s con­tin­ual com­men­tary, so he has now stopped speak­ing to her. He just acts as though she doesn’t ex­ist. How do I get these child­ish peo­ple to grow up?

A: One strat­egy for re­solv­ing co­worker squab­bles might be de­scribed as “to­gether-sep­a­rate to­gether.” Start by hav­ing a joint meet­ing with your dis­rup­tive duo to stress the se­ri­ous­ness of the prob­lem and es­tab­lish clear ex­pec­ta­tions. Your ob­jec­tive is not to re­solve the is­sue, but to set the stage for the next step.

For ex­am­ple: “The two of you are ap­par­ently un­able to work to­gether in a pro­fes­sional man­ner. Be­cause this can’t con­tinue, we have to make some changes. Re­gard­less of how you feel about each other, you are ex­pected to be con­sis­tently pleas­ant and co­op­er­a­tive at work. Af­ter I meet with you sep­a­rately to set some goals, we will get back to­gether and agree on a plan.” Then end the meet­ing with­out fur­ther dis­cus­sion.

In the in­di­vid­ual ses­sions, you should ad­dress each per­son’s con­tri­bu­tion to the prob­lem. Since Cheryl ap­pears to be the in­sti­ga­tor, talk with her first and firmly ex­plain that Doug’s con­ver­sa­tions are none of her busi­ness. She must fo­cus on her own work and stop mak­ing un­wel­come and un­nec­es­sary re­marks.

In Doug’s case, the is­sue is his equally im­ma­ture re­ac­tion to Cheryl’s an­noy­ing be­hav­ior. He needs to un­der­stand that pas­siveag­gres­sive re­tal­i­a­tion is sim­ply un­ac­cept­able. When a col­league is be­ing in­ten­tion­ally ir­ri­tat­ing, he should ei­ther ask that per­son to stop or dis­cuss the is­sue with you.

As a fi­nal step, bring Cheryl and Doug back to­gether, re­it­er­ate your ex­pec­ta­tions and have them sum­ma­rize what they will do dif­fer­ently in the fu­ture. Thank them for their co­op­er­a­tion and then sched­ule a fol­low-up meet­ing to as­sess progress.

If they end their feud, ex­press ap­pre­ci­a­tion. But if they be­gin to back­slide, you must im­me­di­ately re­mind them of their agree­ments.

Q: I have a rou­tine job in which the du­ties sel­dom change. My po­si­tion isn’t very de­mand­ing, but that’s just fine with me. While I want to do my cur­rent work well, I have no de­sire to move up or get ahead.

Un­for­tu­nately, our new man­ager be­lieves that ev­ery­one should be in­ter­ested in ad­vance­ment. He is plan­ning to meet with each of us soon to dis­cuss our ca­reer goals. Since I don’t re­ally have any goals, what should I say?

A: Hav­ing been pro­moted them­selves, man­agers of­ten as­sume that ev­ery­one shares their mo­ti­va­tion. How­ever, many highly com­pe­tent folks are more fo­cused on other things. Some want to con­tinue do­ing tasks they en­joy, while oth­ers are en­er­gized by ac­tiv­i­ties out­side of work. But since your new boss is all about ca­reer, don’t high­light your lack of in­ter­est in mov­ing up. In­stead, fo­cus on ob­jec­tives that could help with your cur­rent job. For ex­am­ple, you might ex­pand your knowl­edge of the busi­ness or ac­quire new tech­ni­cal skills. Af­ter all, on­go­ing learn­ing is al­ways an im­por­tant ca­reer goal.


Work­place coach Marg McIn­tyre tack­les the is­sue of how to han­dle feud­ing co-work­ers.

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