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Bickering employees

Discussion in 'Employment & HR' started by sarastones, Aug 24, 2015.

  1.  
    sarastones

    sarastones Freshman

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    Hi guys,

    So as you know from my intro post I'm doing a level 5 ILM diploma in management, I've already done level 3 but I wasn't in a management role when I completed it I just had a little extra authority over what I'd like to happen but the final decisions never came down to me. Anyway I'm now in at the deep end (which I actually kind of like) and have been thrown into my first management role with a team of 7 - 6 of whom are women.

    So last week I feel I may have reacted inappropriately to an informal employee complaint. Last week, “Tracy” told me that a colleague was being “bitchy” towards her and making rude remarks as she walked in and out of a room. ''Tracy'' also complained about two other women who she feels do a lot of whispering when she’s around.

    I took the “bitchy” co-worker aside and informed her that she had hurt ''Tracy’s'' feelings and the lady replied by basically saying ''Tracy'' needs to grow up and that she wasn't in the school playground anymore. However, now I’m wondering if this was the right thing to do. I haven’t talked to the other employees yet, so I would like some advice on how to manage this situation.

    Note: there's no HR department in our company all managers deal with their own HR and any queries should be directed to the directors but I don't want to bother the director and make an issue out of something if it can be easily rectified.
     
  2.  
    BBSolution

    BBSolution Freshman

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    When employees begin bickering and bitching, joining the game is not a helpful nor particularly interesting. So instead of trying to micromanage relationships or make it into a big issue, gather your team together for a frank discussion about appropriate conduct at work and respecting other colleagues. Don;t mentiuon names make it a general statement - they don't need to know what you know at this point!

    For example: “Because we seem to be experiencing unprofessional behavior and misconduct when it comes to respecting each other and the team, I need to remind you that this is an office, not a social club. You don’t get to choose your colleagues, so you may not like all of them. But that really doesn’t matter. Regardless of your personal feelings, you are expected to be pleasant, helpful and cooperative with everyone.”

    Next, engage the group in defining specific guidelines for mature, professional communication. Ask them to assess their own team against these standards and create an action plan for improvement. In future staff meetings, set aside time for regular progress checks.

    After that, if some backsliders continue to engage in workplace drama and ''bitching'', just treat it as you would any other performance problem laid out in your staff handbook.
     
  3.  
    Toni Rose

    Toni Rose Graduate

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    Blame it on personality, lifestyle or other factors, but sometimes employees just don’t mesh. Conflict between employees isn’t always a bad thing. It can lead to healthy competition if nurtured the right way however as a manager it is your job to encourage your team to work it out.Remember you’re their manager, not their mother. Use your judgment when it comes to addressing employee complaints. Managers should want their employees to be as self-sufficient as possible. Encourage your employees to manage their issues on their own and come to you when they feel like they can't do anything else to improve the situation.By reacting to every whine from a worker you may actually make the situation worse by feeding into the drama, You need to decide whether the complaint is valid or if it really is just a whine because they are having a bad day.

    First try to determine whether the situation is emotionally charged and how bad the conflict is. When you’ve assessed the issue, if appropriate, talk to each employee individually to let them know that you’re aware of the situation. You should also encourage open communication and resolution among employees. Ask them if they feel comfortable going to the other employee and handling it one-on-one. Remember that most people don’t like confrontation, so they may need guidance or talking points on how to approach the other person. Hold them accountable for their actions and for resolving the issue.Unfortunately, some situations don't work themselves out and you’ll be forced to step in. If ignored too long, employee disputes can fester and infect the entire workplace and ultimately taint the whole culture of your company as others get dragged into disputes and are forced to choose sides.

    By the time you get involved, your office may already be buzzing with gossip. Don’t assume you know the situation based on the whispers you’ve heard around the office. First, deal with the individuals or group of people who are directly involved in the incident and worry about refocusing other staff members later. Sit the feuding employees down and ask each to explain their side of the story.Some prefer this be done individually, while others believe you should discuss the problem with both at the same time. But before you do decide, evaluate the degree of hostility between them. This way you can be sure you’re create an environment where you can discuss facts, not emotions the last thing you want is to escalate the situation.

    If you determine that speaking to the employees at the same time is the best course of action, provide each employee uninterrupted time to give their (fact-based) side of the story. Once all employees have had this opportunity, ask each of them to offer ideas on how the situation could be resolved and how all parties could move forward. As a manager, you need to be as objective as possible. You never, ever want to take sides. This will only fan the flames and make matters worse.Often the cause of an argument between a group of employees can get clouded by the all the emotions that surround it. Try to get each employee to articulate the issue in a calm way. Ask them what they want to see as an outcome. Review your company’s policies and staff handbooks. Employee handbooks are designed to lay down consistent rules that each employee is expected to uphold at all times. In order to offer a fair resolution, you’ll need to make sure your decision is aligned with company policy. No employee should be above the rules of your workplace. Letting an employee slide when they’ve clearly gone against the rules will weaken your authority and you will lose respect from other members of staff.

    Employees may not like it, but it’s important that you document all workplace incidents. This will help you monitor behavior over time and provides a record to refer back to for future occurrences. Documenting incidents can also protect your business should a disgruntled employee try to take you to court. Always write down details from each run-in an employee has had. Ensure that your write-up is fact-based and that you keep a copy in all involved employees’ files. Include the who, what, when, where and how as well as the resolution to which all parties agreed the have the employees involved sign a copy of your record.

    All of this I learnt in my first year of management in a similar role to yours but with a group of males so I hope this advice will be helpful for you!
     
  4.  
    mrs orangetree

    mrs orangetree The real Mrs O

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    Ah, women in the workplace. Joy :/
     
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  5.  
    Duncan

    Duncan Moderator Staff Member Premium Member

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    Get them together and say;

    "I am aware of somewhat unprofessional and frankly childish behaviour within the team. This reflects badly on each of us as individuals and all of us as a team. This is not acceptable. Regardless of your personal feelings, you are expected to be pleasant, helpful and cooperative with everyone in order to get the job done.

    If I become aware of any incidents of bullying or harassment then I will deal with them but I invite you to work as a team of professionals who respect each other and would appreciate you leaving your personal differences at the office door/factory gate/shop door/stage door etc before you come to work."

    Then you stand up, open the door and make clear they should troop out in silence.

    Do it at the end of the day but NOT at the end of the week.
     
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  6.  
    Maevla

    Maevla Administrator Staff Member

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    *sigh* - don't some let the side down.. :)
     
  7.  
    sarastones

    sarastones Freshman

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    Hi all - sorry for the late response works been crazy sometimes there's just not enough hours in the day! So anyway I took bits of everybody's advice I got everyone together 10 minutes before home time on Monday and basically told them what I thought of the situation naming no names stating that I would not tolerate bitchiness or playground rumors, reminded them of the company bullying policy and what the company constitutes as bullying, made them all sign a copy stating they understood the policy and the repercussions of not following it and I arranged a team work toolbox talk for the following morning. I actually saw 'Tracy' and the coworker she had complained about eating lunch together today laughing and giggling like life long friends :facepalm:o_O:woot:
     
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  8.  
    Maevla

    Maevla Administrator Staff Member

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    so a job well done then Sarastones :)
     
  9.  
    Employment Law Clinic

    Employment Law Clinic Graduate

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    Some very sensible advice in this thread, that has led to a satisfactory resolution.

    A couple of things concern or puzzle me though about the resolution post:

    Sara, you mention reminding the staff of the bullying policy, and then "made them all sign a copy" [my underlining]. Isn't that bullying or coercion, particularly given this was done at the end of the day? Couldn't they take the policy away to actually read it and ensure they actually understood it before signing that they did, as it's now a declaration made under duress, under time pressures, and it appears without consideration of whether there were any queries about the policy? (Who even wrote a bullying policy if the company doesn't have a HR department? Not a typical policy for a small employer to order instinctively, nor need in many cases.)


    The other thing that puzzled me from your post was the reference to a "toolbox talk". These are normally a health & safety practice, and the parlance is typically only applied in places where a toolbox might actually be a work tool of choice or need - a building site, rather than an office, as I got the impression (perhaps wrongly) from your earlier post the workplace is. I just wanted to check you're not using management speak (let alone practices) picked up on a course that are inappropriate for the type of workplace you are managing.


    Notwithstanding my comments/queries, it's great that the matter is resolved by your management, and the appropriate action was taken, the advice given above entirely sensible.


    Karl Limpert
     
  10.  
    sarastones

    sarastones Freshman

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    Hi Karl,

    My fault there with using the word 'made' and not going into enough detail as I was in a rush when I did the post. What I actually did was re briefed the bullying policy going through each section at a time and then asked if everybody understood the policy or if anybody had questions or needed to speak to me privately regarding the policy. Nobody did as it is a pretty straightforward policy and one they have all gone through in detail during the induction period, I then asked them to sign a copy to confirm it had been briefed to them again and that they understood it they were also given a copy to take home at the same time and reminded if at any time they need to they can ask myself or a director who can talk them through any queries. We already have signed copies of the policy from everybody anyway when they sign to say they have read and understood our induction pack and staff handbook as that is included in there, but our director just prefers to have everything in writing 100% and a record of everything so that's not entirely a personal choice of mine.

    I work in an office attached to the company warehouse, although I only have management responsibility in the office and only work in the office but we use toolbox talks for all kinds of things although it is the format of the talk we use mostly rather than the focus on the name as they are short, effective and everybody has the chance to get involved - we originally only used the toolbox talks for health and safety in both the office and the warehouse but as the team took so well to them and they seemed to be working we decided to create short talks on other subjects sometimes as an introduction to topics or sometimes to remind the team of the main points on a subject. On paper these talks are just called 'the topic name' 10 minute briefing rather than a toolbox talk so again my wording could be misleading in my post. We find that most staff feel there is no pressure in a toolbox talk so because of that they tend to get the discussion going and they almost always end on a positive with the information we needed to relay being processed so I suppose its a case of why fix something that isn't broken.
     
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    Duncan

    Duncan Moderator Staff Member Premium Member

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    Perhaps 'Pencil Case Talk'? o_O
     
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  12.  
    ISS

    ISS Son of Victor Meldrew Premium Member

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    Or in the case of many workplace disputes- "playground talk" might be more appropriate.

    On a serious note if having had the relevant talks and meetings, the situation doesn't improve I would find out who the bad apple was and get rid of them. The business cannot be made to suffer because of one individual's inability to work with others.
     
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    Employment Law Clinic

    Employment Law Clinic Graduate

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    Not a fault at all Sara, just checking, as you also mention the induction pack and every new employee will merrily sign everything put in front of them on day one without reading it. While it should carry little or no weight with a good representative for the employer (or a fair Employment Tribunal Judge), this is open to at least exploitation, the obvious argument being that they signed because they were told to, or felt the need to, rather than because they agreed to the statement they were signing – which doesn’t appear to actually be the case here now.



    That sounds entirely sensible (as do the alternative suggestions to describe these talks). My concern when I commented was that some management speak that might have been picked up in a course had been brought into a workplace with a misunderstanding, but it appears you’re doing fine Sara.


    Karl Limpert
     
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    Maevla

    Maevla Administrator Staff Member

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    Ah somebody else actually uses tool box talks for things other than health and safety then. I also use them for all sorts of things, strangely through a suggestion made on one of ISO visits by the auditor. It's a good point ref the naming of them though. might have a look at changing - but not to playground talks - that would encourage the wrong thing I'm sure.
     
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    epat

    epat Freshman

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    Keep an eye on the situation, things like that often are not as easy as they seem, psyschopaths who bully people often are very friendly if they have the need to be.
    Usually in order to get gain trust so they can destroy the person who complained.
     
  16.  
    epat

    epat Freshman

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    Depends what you mean by the bad apple, do you mean the people doing the bullying, or the person being bullied by lots of people.
    Mob bullying is common place in workplaces, it spreads like wildfire, only takes a person or two to spread rumours which then grow etc and then a persons life is made hell.
    It can get to the stage where it looks like a department hates one person, but they are not the bad apple - its the people who are behind the mob bullying that are - and the staff who joined in.
    Sack the people doing the crime, not the victim, it will help the company longer term.
     
  17.  
    jeffnev

    jeffnev Graduate

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    Being in a position with no HR representatives within a company is a difficult one. The above points are completely correct, you don't want to get drawn into it and have to micromanage office relationships, you only risk your own position at the company. If you find yourself in that particular position too commonly then I'd either advise re-establishing your role within the organisation, make out you're above office politics - or consider ways you could directly change from within. There are plenty of CIPD courses in the UK http://acacialearning.co.uk/what-we-offer/cipd/ that would give you the opportunity to learn personnel management, gain an HR qualification, resolve office disputes and build an even more rounded CV. If the budget is there within the company then it's worth considering. If not, and the issue persists you may have to involve your director.
     

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