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I recently noticed one of my employees talks to multiple people to discuss the conflict/issues she is having with a coworker, instead of resolving the problem with this coworker.

I think she allows the problem to fester by discussing it with multiple people, lowering morale. The people she talks to (who are not in my department) then have to stop what they're doing and listen to her, since they are friends with her. This behavior lowers the productivity of her, and the people who have to listen to her.

I don't mind people who talk about their problems with others, but this person lingers, and spends about 20-30 minutes with each employee.

What is the best way as her manager to coach her about this problem?

  • I helped make it more clear you are the employee's manager, if that changed your intent too much feel free to edit and help clarify! – enderland Aug 3 '16 at 2:26
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    You could step in, haul them both into a room, and resolve the issues... – keshlam Aug 3 '16 at 2:50
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Take her into a meeting and tell her that gossiping of that type is not allowed. If she has issues with co-workers there are already protocols in place to resolve them. And outline them to her while making sure she knows her behaviour is intolerable. Usually these would be:-

Discuss your problem with your manager

Take up your problem with HR

If she takes this advice to heart then all is well, if she doesn't then you can move forwards with disciplinary measures since she has had fair warning.

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    +1, I would add that it is important to make sure your company is actually dealing with employee disputes effectively. Sometimes this kind of behavior happens because management is not taking appropriate action to resolve problems, and people are getting frustrated. – user45590 Aug 3 '16 at 7:18
  • Also make sure you're following company policy when helping to settle this dispute - acting too quickly or in an inappropriate way could make things worse, or be grounds for termination. – Zibbobz Aug 3 '16 at 20:30
  • Geez you're a hardliner Kilisi, happy you are not my boss. There are much softer ways to start this process, you jump too fast into disciplinary proceedings. – asoundmove Aug 3 '16 at 22:45
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    @Kilisi letting them know "their behaviour is unacceptable" is hardly soft talk or conciliatory for example, in my book that amounts to leading with a stick. I would favour a softer "let me understand where you come from" approach on the first meeting & a can we find a peaceful resolution? – asoundmove Aug 4 '16 at 8:51
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    @Kilisi fair enough, if it works for you, in your situation. – asoundmove Aug 4 '16 at 9:23
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I would suggest that you first take counsel with HR. Discuss with them what you intend to discuss with her. But, do not discuss with her that you first spoke to HR.

And then, in private, candidly discuss the situation from your point of view. Just as you have said to us, here. I prefer to avoid using higher-authority leverage, e.g. "... is not allowed," because this understandably puts (an already insecure) person on the extreme defensive. Instead, I prefer to present the problem, listen at every opportunity (deliberately shuffling my papers to add a longer pause), and then finally indicate what corrections must be made to on-the-clock behavior. Try to emphasize the pragmatic necessity of it, so that she might "buy in" to the change. Try to walk softly, and not bring out the big-stick.

There must be a "root cause" here. Try to find out, separately and privately from both employees, what that root cause might be.

Emphasize that you should be the one that she talks to about any situation with a co-worker. Be sure that she feels invited and comfortable doing so. Your tone and demeanor in this particular meeting will be critical in establishing her perspective of you as being a resource in such matters. (You are. It's part of your job. But, employees don't typically think of bosses that way, until and unless they themselves become one ...)

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If you're going to take the "coach" approach:

  1. Ask her - in a better situation, what would the environment in the office be like? How would she feel? (if this applies) Would the business process in the office be any different?
  2. What are obstacles that are preventing that?
  3. Devise a plan of action to get through the obstacles. Start with low-hanging fruit. She may need some external counseling.
  4. Make her accountable for doing the work to get through the obstacles. (This part goes in her HR file). You may unearth other obstacles along the way - be prepared to re-prioritize if need be.

For the latter two, make sure HR is on-board with any proposed remedy.

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The first step to resolving anything is always to ask and understand the situation.

If you do not understand the situation you cannot help resolve it. And no, I do not mean getting your ear bitten for 20 minutes, you will need to somewhat steer the conversation and keep it on track, but first understand.

Once you understand then put your story forward, i.e. what Kilisi says but in a much softer version: explain that it would be much more effective adn you would much prefer if any future similar issues would be resolved by talking directly to the person she has an issue with or if she can't face it with yourself. Explain that doing it any other way is counter productive and that it is not in the interest of the company to let that sort of issue develop and affect other staff members, so the earlier a problem is managed and solved the better.

In other words she does this because she does not know how to handle it. Show that your door is open and she will handle it better with your help.

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