Two people walk into a bar…

And because one’s an INTJ and the other’s an ESFP, or because one’s a Red and the other’s a Green, or because one’s a Sheep and the other’s a Fox (well, you get the idea), the upshot is that they don’t get on.

Outside of work, this is pretty easy to manage. If a person doesn’t like someone, they will generally try and avoid them. Obviously there are exceptions to this and some people seem to seek out confrontation. A prime example at the moment, regardless of your politics, being the House of Commons! For most people however, it’s important to have a calmer approach to their workplace. But what do you do when the dislike between two employees can’t be contained? Ignore it? Become stern and dictatorial with them? Take sides and act accordingly? ‘Outsource’ the matter entirely? In practice, an element of all of these reactions is sometimes needed – as long as you don’t forget the magic ingredient.

For example, ignoring the situation isn’t actually as irresponsible as it sounds. Like everyone, employees sometimes need to just sound off. As the manager, it’s your experience and intuition that will tell you whether this is just a minor spat or something more serious. And if it’s a minor spat? Do you really want or need to get involved or indeed, have the time to do so? Sometimes it’s just better to let them work it out themselves. All they might need you for is to be a sounding board for the person letting off steam. If it gets serious, then yes, you may need to do more. But in the first instance, just remain observant and listen.

You could become very stern and dictatorial with them and while this might be needed occasionally (if behaviour becomes really inappropriate) you might end up changing the dynamic of your relationship with both the two people concerned, as well as your team.

Think about it – essentially, you’ve gone into ‘parent’ mode and you’re treating them like children. And like most children, they aren’t going to be particularly rational. They’ll probably each tell you how miserable they feel and that it’s all the other person’s fault; they are the good guy and the other person is the bad guy.

You’re not their parent, you’re their manager. Remain the rational, calm adult, and deal with the matter objectively. This will help you maintain a professional stance and keep control of the situation.

What about taking sides? On the face of it, this is a recipe for disaster and if you plan to leap into the fray with no evidence, then that’s what the outcome is very likely to be. However! If by taking sides, you mean that you’re planning to do some form of investigation, gather evidence and then come to a reasoned, fact-based conclusion, this is quite another matter. Not only will you protect yourself and your business from any legal claims of discrimination or similar charges, you’ll also find out whether there’s any merit to their complaints, and indeed, if there are any serious issues occurring (e.g. bullying and harassment). This will then allow you to take proper, reasonable action to deal with the matter. Which is good for everyone.

And outsourcing? For small to medium sized businesses, using consultants to deal with employment relations issues is a boon. But no consultant in the world is going to manage your staff for you. You’re the manager, you know your staff best. All a consultant can do is be your technical expert. It will still be up to you to learn how best to manage those relationships.

So what’s this magic ingredient I spoke about? Forbearance. This means you have self-control over how you deal with such situations. You respond rather than react to issues. You take:

  • a step back

  • a deep breath

  • your time to consider carefully what you’re being told by various parties.

Only then do you decide how to proceed. Still worried? Just remember that you’re not alone – BHR (UK) LTD provides HR consultancy support services to small businesses in the Epping Forest, Harlow, Essex and Hertfordshire. BHR UK can provide you with HR advice on how best to manage the situation, provide an informal coaching service to help you develop your own line management capability and advise you on how to improve relationships within your team. If you are a small business in need of HR consultancy services don’t delay and book in for your free 30 minute consultation call today!

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