What To Do When Two Employees Just Can’t Get Along

Written by on March 7, 2018

One of the hardest parts of team building is when you have two people that dislike each other so much it causes issues for the rest of the team. I’m not talking about the occasional bickering that goes on in every office. I’m talking about the two people that everyone holds their breath when those two are in the same room at the same time.

As a leader, you have to be careful. You don’t want to jump in too early, and you don’t want to wait too long. Getting involved in every little skirmish will make people feel like you are micromanaging them (and you’re being nosy) but NOT doing anything might reflect that you don’t have the backbone to manage the atmosphere for the rest of the group.

So…what do you do? Simple.

Bring them to your office together. Explain that you understand sometimes people just can’t see the good in each other, and you have been hoping they would work this out, but it’s clear they can’t. Lay out the options.

Here is a sample Script….

I was hoping you two could work this out, but it’s clear you are at a roadblock. I’m talking to you about it now because it’s causing an issue for the team. As I see it, we have a few options, and I wanted your feedback. 

  1. You two work it out, but that seems unlikely.
  2. I write you both up and put you on a performance review. Just so you know, I do not care one bit about who is right or wrong; the write-up will be for causing issues for the team.
  3. This is where I wanted your feedback. I’m open to a 3rd option, but I just can’t think of one, so I thought I would ask for your feedback.   

Now, just be quiet. Just let them talk it out. You are listening, making notes, and creating a safe space for them to work out their differences. If you hear anyone saying something subjective, call them on it. Steer them to use “I” statements and not “you” statements.

Exceptional leadership is getting people to think for themselves and to solve problems on their own. It’s also being mindful of the environment for the rest of the team that feels the tension in the room every time those two walk into a room. That kind of negative energy is palpable and destructive, and you must be mindful of it.  It reminds me of a comment, my former colleague, Rick Hust once said… “Your job as a leader is to turn on the electricity in the room, then turn on the lights.”  

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  1. Bradley   On   March 9, 2018 at 12:12 pm

    Tracy I love the article. I went through this years ago as I was one of the ones that had tension in the room with someone else. The problem was the leader of the region blew it off and did not facilitate any changes needed. It cost me a half a million dollars and a negative waste of my time and attitude for almost a year. It destroyed the company later as most of their managers were ruled to be employees after the IRS rulings. The long run effects are most everyone who was with the company or now on different paths. The true effect to get over these is leadership yes but to truly get to the root of all problems is to discuss it and offer forgiveness and acceptance of ones differences. When someone understands everyone can’t be the same as yourself and everyone is different. people can be more tolerant and have understanding of each other.

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