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D.F. Krause
  D.F.'s Column Archive

May 7, 2007

Employees Fighting? Counselors Are Standing By


Employee A doesn’t like Employee B. Why? Personality conflict. Political differences. Rivalry over a woman. Recipe dispute.


All of the above. Or something else entirely. It doesn’t matter, really. At least not to the CEO. People have been finding reasons to dislike each other since they were arguing over whether to make fire by rubbing the sticks in a cross-shape or more like log rollers. And hey! Who says making fire is a good idea anyway?


Do I have to work with Trog? He pisses me off.


People who don’t like each other can still work together, sometimes quite well. Have the Lakers been better since they granted Kobe’s wish and traded Shaq? Didn’t think so. But that doesn’t mean it’s helpful. The question is what you do when you find yourself with two people who just can’t stand each other.


The business consulting world thinks it has an answer! Now you can send colleagues in conflict to business conflict counseling. On company time, of course. On the company’s dime, of course. You can’t exactly force these people to pay, or to do it on their own time, when they’d be perfectly happy to continue hating each other if not for the fact that it’s causing a problem for you.


“John, why don’t you start? Why do you hate Pete?”


“Pete slept with my wife, broke my nose, ate my lunch and used a condescending tone in an e-mail seven years ago. The wounds run deep.”


“Pete, why do you hate John?”


“John makes such a big deal out of that e-mail. He’s a drama queen.”


Punches are thrown. Chairs fly. Jerry Springer enters the room and asks, “What have we learned today?”


And the counselor announces that time is up, because the people with the fetish about putting fish in their underwear are waiting outside.


There’s a difference between not liking each other and not being able to get along or work together. Pete and John do not come to work every day for any essential purpose other than to work. If each can do his job, putting aside differences whenever it becomes necessary for them to interact, I’m not so sure the personal conflict really needs to be resolved. To the extent that it needs to be dealt with, it seems to me that it is not the task of a psychologist. It is the job of the boss, who will deal with things a little differently than the “counselor.”


“What’s up here?”


Pete and John in unison: “Nothin’.”






“Pete, what’s your problem with John?”


“No problem.”


“Oh, I see. John, what’s your problem with Pete?”


Shrugging shoulders: “I got no problem.”


The boss isn’t dealing with their feelings. The boss doesn’t care about their feelings.


“Well I’ve got people telling me that you two are at each other’s throats every time you interact.”




“Every employee in the entire company.”


Pete and John slump in their respective chairs. The boss explains that this meeting is over because the underwear fish people are waiting outside.


It is part of a professional’s job to be professional and do the job, whether you like your colleagues or not. If either or both cannot be professional enough to do that, either or both is fired and the problem is solved. Making friends with your colleagues is nice, but sometimes that presents problems as well.


Two people who don’t like each other can still agree on certain things – like the company’s mission and goals, and the need to pursue them to the best of their ability. Inability to get past personal conflicts and focus on what’s really important is not a problem a counselor can solve. If the CEO can’t persuade them to behave, maybe he can put fish in their underwear.


Then again, what if they like it?


© 2007 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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