A reader writes:
I supervise a staff of 5 people as part of a team that was just created within the organization since the beginning of the year. Two of them are constantly bickering between themselves and each runs to me with complaints about the other. I have tried coaching and mediating with the two of them. But this has been going on for six months now. I do not have the time to do a weekly “intervention” with these two and it is draining on the whole team.
I have decided that one of them has to go (not fired; just to another team within the organization). The dilemma is...which one? One of them is disorganized, has made some mistakes and cannot seem to stay on task. The other one performs efficiently but has a track record of not getting along with people, gossiping and just generally keeping things stirred up. I have addressed the specific issues with each of them independently to no avail. Any suggestions?
Yes. Expect them each to meet appropriate standards and fire them if they don't. With their current level of performance, I don't see why you'd want either of them staying on your team, or why you'd inflict them on someone else in your organization.
You're not holding them accountable, and you need to.
Meet with each one individually and explain that you have serious concerns about her performance. With the one who's disorganized, makes mistakes, and has trouble staying on track, address each of those issues. With the one who causes problems among the staff, address that. And with each of them, tell them the bickering is going to stop, effective right now, and that you're not willing to deal with it anymore. They are expected to deal with it between themselves like adults, without it affecting their work or taking up your time, period. These are fundamental requirements of the job. If they don't or can't meet those requirements, they can't stay on staff. It's not negotiable.
And then stick to it.
Do you know how many competent people are on the job market right now, who wouldn't cause you these kinds of issues? These two aren't entitled to hold onto their jobs at all costs. Plus, the opportunity cost of having the wrong people on your staff is enormous. Think about if you had stars in those positions -- the impact can be dramatic.
As a manager, getting results is your fundamental job, and since having the right people makes a huge impact on your ability to do that, you should be putting significant energy into getting and keeping the right people on board and moving out the ones who don’t meet a high bar.
Be clear about your expectations, warn them that if they don't meet them you will let them go, and then back up your words with action.