Weekly dilemma: professional jealousy

I am an HR director of a large creative agency. We have two members of staff who are both hugely creative and are each critical to the reputation and success of the organisation. Unfortunately, there is a huge amount of professional jealousy between them, which has led to ongoing temper tantrums and backstabbing. It is at the stage where they refuse to be in the same room and the situation is in danger of causing a company-wide rift. What is the best way of resolving this before it becomes more entrenched?

This can be a common problem in the workplace, and the prime issue here is to clarify whether both people are willing to consider mediation and be prepared to engage in the process. Initially this can be hard, as it will involve acknowledging that there is a problem and being willing to look at solutions together.

Identify whether there are any other people who are decision-makers, as ideally they should be involved in the process for any solutions to work.

Once this stage is reached, ensure all parties are aware of the consequences:

  • if they mediate and reach agreement.
  • if they mediate and do not reach agreement.
  • if they do not mediate.

The parties need to know what, if any, records will be kept on their personnel files – it is recommended no records are kept so that the informal, voluntary nature of mediation is upheld and a win-win outcome may be achieved.

Consider offering the two employees some individual support such as personal counselling via an employee assistance programme, counselling service or coaching, to ensure they are supported at a more personal level.

Managers should reiterate how highly the organisation values both individuals and then highlight the ripple effect their behaviour is having on the organisation. This will ensure that they understand the sincerity with which mediation is being offered and the fact that the organisation does not want to lose either person.

Marilyn Appleton, mediation practice leader, Right Corecare

Each week we ask the experts to answer your legal dilemmas. If you have a legal question or dilemma, e-mail dawn.spalding@rbi.co.uk

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