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Q.
Two members of my staff fight like cats and dogs. How can I get them to coexist?

A.
Sometimes it seems like the answer to the question "Can't we all just get along?" is a resounding "No." So if you want a truce in their battling behavior, you must broker the peace yourself, because neither one seems able – or willing – to bury the hatchet.

First, meet with both of the warring parties in private. Address the behavior without pinning the blame on either one, using statements such as, "The two of you are fighting constantly, and I need you to understand that this is unacceptable behavior. I want it to stop immediately." Next, to reinforce what you've said, describe the negative effect their pugilistic pattern is having on the entire department. After that, ask both to verbally acknowledge what you've stated. Do not allow the staffers to debate you, or to point the finger at each other.

Once you have made clear where you stand, tell the staffers you expect them to work out any disagreements, whether personal or professional, in a manner that doesn't negatively reflect on themselves and your department. Lastly, inform them that they will be responsible for an immediate cessation in hostilities; otherwise, there will be consequences.

By confronting their behavior without blaming either party, stating your expectations, and emphasizing the possibility of sanctions, you will most likely see less combat and more cooperation between them.E



Dan Lumpkin, organizational psychologist, is the president of management-consulting company Lumpkin & Associates in Fairhope, AL. Need answers? Email your career-related questions to askdan@exhibitormagazine.com.
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