I recently came across an interesting problem faced by an HR manager. A particular department at her organization consisted of ten employees—and no one got along. These employees disliked each other so much that they were constantly bickering, tattling, and scheming against one another. The manager was unable to handle the team and needed help. Could this department turn around?
You might have experienced something similar at your business. If your entire team is having difficulties working with one another, time management might be an issue. Does each person have enough work? Are they being fully utilized? There is an old saying that “an idle mind is the devil’s workshop” and it’s certainly true in the workplace. If employees have too little to do, they may veer into non-work-related matters, including focusing on interpersonal disputes. On the other hand, it is also possible that they have too much on their plate, and feel the need to take out their frustrations on one another. Resolving this issue will help ensure that employees spend their time properly focused on work.
Another concern is trust. In order to work together in harmony, employees must have a base-line level of trust with one another. They need to be able to relate to one another, and see each other as more than simply their role within the organization. It can be helpful to schedule team-building activities or workplace outings to instill a good rapport, and to allow co-workers to interact in less stressful environments. Additionally, take your employees’ suggestions into account. Employees might see issues in the workplace that need to be resolved for them to better perform their jobs. Conducting regular, one-on-one meetings with each employee can help reveal any underlying issues and provide valuable insights into possible improvements. It is important that supervisors circle back with employees after the interviews are completed to reiterate what was gleaned and what steps are being taken as a result.
Unfortunately, while conducting these interviews with your employees, you might uncover an all-too-common workplace problem: discriminatory conduct. The HR manager I recently spoke with described how several employees had posted discriminatory and harassing statements targeting fellow employees on their social media. Such situations must be immediately addressed, in line with company policies. While you can choose from a host of disciplinary actions, meaningful diversity training might be a good first step. If you feel you have exhausted all other options, and the team still cannot work together, it may be a good idea to shuffle roles.
One thing to avoid in these situations is rash terminations. Your employees might have legal claims for discrimination, retaliation, or even whistleblowing. Terminating employees without fully reviewing and assessing the situation, and confirming that all company policies are being followed, could result in serious liability.
Rather, prevent the deterioration of your workplace before it begins. Instill a healthy tone for the company overall by holding regular, thoughtful, and authentic workplace trainings that apprise all team members of your company’s policies and best practices. Use the opportunity to educate your team on the typical consequences for misconduct, but also remind them of your company’s mission and values—the why of your work. This will help them focus on the big picture and better see one another as team members. The tenor of a workplace is usually established by upper management. If you need help getting employee relations under control, reach out to competent employment consultants today. Your business can’t wait.