Authority; Communication; Criticism and Discipline; Leadership

The INcompaTIBle employees

Primary Topic—Employee Problems and Problem Employees

Additional Topics—Authority; Communication; Criticism and Discipline; Leadership

“I’m so frustrated by the situation in my department that I’m ready to get rid of two fairly good employees just for the sake of tranquillity,” said supervisor Annette Johnson.

“I don’t see why you’d want to get rid of good employees at all,” commented fellow supervisor Barbara Wilson. “Sometimes the good ones are pretty hard to come by.”

Annette said, “I said fairly good; the two of them would be practically ideal if I could keep them out of each other’s way. But they work in the same office—like we all do, 12 or 13 people in one large area—and they just don’t get along.”

Barbara asked, “Personality conflict?” “Don’t know, but it’s a possibility. If one of them says something’s black the

other says it’s white, seemingly just for spite. If anything’s at all wrong with one’s work input or anything’s out of place at one station, the other is always blamed. They seem always to be competing, and if one sees the other as gaining favor in any way the jealous behavior becomes intolerable.”

“Maybe they deserve each other,” Barbara said. “Why not just stick the two of them in the farthest corner of the department and leave them be?”

“I can’t,” Annette said. “They both have to relate to about half of the rest of the staff on any given day, and when they’re not getting along the tension affects others in the work environment. It gets so bad that sometimes these two people—who are supposed to be communicating regularly during the day—will speak to each other only through a third party.”

“Childish,” said Barbara. “Childish, yes,” said Annette, “but the effects of their behavior are serious. And

they’ve been talked to about it, a couple of times in fact, but even though things simmer down a little when they’re spoken to they’re back at each other’s throats in a week.”


Putting yourself in the position of supervisor Annette Johnson, describe how you would go about addressing the problem presented by the incompatible employees.

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