Q: Two of my employees are refusing to communicate with each other. About three months ago, "Anna" and "Pam" got into an argument that ended in a shouting match. Their screaming and yelling could be heard by everyone in the department. Since then, they have gone out of their way to avoid interacting.
Anna accuses Pam of being bossy and interfering with her job. Pam says she can't stand Anna's attitude and wants nothing to do with her. This ongoing conflict has disrupted the flow of work and created tension in the office.
I have told both employees that disciplinary action will be taken if this continues, but their relationship just seems to keep getting worse. What should I do?
A: Has it occurred to you that three people are responsible for this problem? Anna and Pam may be squabbling like childish brats, but you're the one who is tolerating this disruptive behavior. If you were acting like a manager instead of a fretful bystander, their juvenile antics would have ended long ago.
You say "disciplinary action will be taken if this continues," but I wonder what you're waiting for. The proper time for discipline was after the initial shouting match, when both parties should have been given a documented warning and sent home. Considering their subsequent performance, corrective action could have been administered at any time.
So instead of wasting another day, you should immediately order these feuding colleagues to cease all forms of disruptive conduct, including pouting and sulking. From now on, regardless of their feelings, they must consistently interact in a polite and cooperative manner. Any return to their previous behavior will result in a final warning which could lead to termination.
Once these two stop behaving like middle-school "mean girls", you can begin to explore the underlying cause of their frustration. But no resolution can be reached until Anna and Pam start acting like professional adults, and you start being a boss.
Q: When my supervisor invited me to make comments on my performance appraisal form, I wrote that I felt bullied and victimized. I also said he was not giving me the same opportunities as my coworkers. However, I now feel that those remarks were too harsh, so I would like to retract them. How should I go about this?
A: Since your supervisor is obviously aware of these comments, you can simply tell him about your change of heart and ask how the form might be amended.
For example: "I wanted to talk with you about my remarks on the appraisal form. I was pretty upset at the time and said some things that don't reflect how I really feel. Because I would hate for those comments to be part of the permanent record, I would like to see how we can get them removed."
If your boss is a conscientious manager, he may ask about the reason for your previous feelings. But since those observations did not cast him in a very favorable light, he should be quite willing to help you erase them.
ABOUT THE WRITER
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 at http://www.yourofficecoach.com, or follow her on Twitter @officecoach.
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