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Home PI eAlert Back Issues No. 60: Two of my staff members are "avoiding" each other; how can I resolve this problem?

Jan 17

No. 60: Two of my staff members are "avoiding" each other; how can I resolve this problem?

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Two of my staff members are "avoiding" each other; how can I resolve this problem?

Reader Question: There's a pall over my lab. Two staff members dislike each other and, rather than resolve their issues, they're avoiding each other. It seemed a minor issue for a while but now it's creating a general tension in the lab. The two are asking co-workers to do certain jobs for them so they can steer clear of one another. My patience is wearing thin. I have seen a slight decline in productivity and don't want to see that worsen. What's my easiest and quickest solution?

Expert comments: The first thing is to address the problem. Don’t ignore it or hope it will improve over time because the situation could fester and become worse.

Your best bet is to clearly explain your expectation to these staff members that they must find a way to work together. They don’t have to be friends, but they have to work well enough together not to impede the lab’s work.

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Often, a neutral third party or a university mediation program can help. They can facilitate conversation between the parties having problems and help them work out a written arrangement regarding how they’re going to work through it. This is particularly helpful if the two exchange data in the lab.

You also should be explicit regarding your expectations of how often, in what form, and what to do if disagreement breaks out. Basically, you want your staffers to work out a specific understanding that is realistic for them to honor. And don’t be reluctant to indicate that, if they’re unwilling to meet your terms, they could be invited to find work elsewhere.

Expert comments by Howard Gadlin, PhD, Ombudsman and Director of the Center for Cooperative Resolution, NIH.

Comments (1)
Administrative Manager
written by Rosanna, January 11, 2011
Without knowing enough background, it's difficult. Is the dislike personal or professional? Either way, it is now interferring with productivity and needs resolved. Pull both into your office and explain that it is interferring with work, regardless of the nature and act as a mediator to settle. Agree that discussion does not go beyond your office door but solution does and stay there until it's resolved.

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