I am the sole R&D person in a pretty outdated company. I do a very broad set of engineering tasks in order to improve QC, from failure analysis to automatic systems development. In order to complete my work I have to talk with a diversified set of people: production director, people in the machine shop, operators, etc.

I pretty quickly found out that there are a few hate-ridden relationship amongst them, to the point of completely ignoring each other, talking behind back, etc.

I couldn't care less, but the thing is becoming problematic because X won`t collaborate with me because he have seen me talking with Y, Z "never has time" since has seen me reviewing my designs with T, etc etc etc.

This is getting really annoying, the quality of my work is going down along with the morale. Sadly we have no HR ballsy enough to have a nice and long chat with them, still I do not want to spend my day with adults behaving to each other as stupid bullies, or at least try to avoid being caught in the crossfire.

How to? Seems that X sees as a "personal offense" even an idle chat with Y...

  • 18
    X and Y surely have a higher up in the hierarchy in common, don't they? Did you try to talk to that person?
    – nvoigt
    Sep 15, 2017 at 10:47
  • He is fully aware of that and thinks that petty people like X and Y would be better out of the door. Sadly, the two individuals managed to gain some sort of "bus factor" 1 so they must be kept around for some time because their "expertise" (basically loads of basic unshared and purposeful undocumented knowledge) is needed. Sep 15, 2017 at 10:51
  • 19
    If you need help from someone, but they refuse to work with you for whatever reason, that's really your manager's responsibility to sort out. Put things on hold as necessary until they sort it out. Also, find another job. Sep 15, 2017 at 11:02
  • 2
    Unfortunately, i think that at some point you just have to make people get along. I agree with the higher up that some of these people would be better in "Different Employment". To a large extent, you'll just have to make an effort to seem above the petty bullshit. With regards to some of the "White Strike" stuff, get permission from management to "JFDI" (Just Do It") if they're being unhelpful - get an idea of what work needs doing and get it taken offline on days that will be least impactful. To get things moving,Sometimes you'll need the grease, and sometimes you'll need to be the hammer.
    – Miller86
    Sep 15, 2017 at 11:06
  • 1
    Are you happy working at this 'outdated company'? Maybe it's a sign to start looking for a new employer.
    – user45623
    Sep 16, 2017 at 8:36

3 Answers 3


It is clearly not your responsibility to resolve the personal issues of colleagues that do not report to you, but if I was your manager I would value your ability to work around these kinds of issues in order to achieve your goals. Beyond escalating issues to their manager, you could try to work around the symptoms.

E.g. rather than trying to resolve the issues between X and Y, you could try approaching X to ask their advice on how you could get the input you need from Y. It's hard to be petty or personal when someone is asking you how to go about doing something reasonable.

Or in the case of Z, perhaps approaching them to see whether T's review is sufficient or if they think a second pair of eyes would be valuable. At least you can progress instead of waiting for a review that will never happen.

Being able to apply some degree of diplomacy is a valuable skill, as few workplaces are completely without any personal frictions.

  • Fair point, and I`m proud to say I am the only one who has a somehow productive relationship with people from the different "clans", something the owner gives me good credit for. Diplomacy is a daily skill, if I want a second opinion from Y on something X said well I carefully avoid saying that the idea is from X... :-) Sep 15, 2017 at 14:46

How to?

You don't, their manager does.

All you can do is factually point out where their bickering is causing your work to suffer. You should try to focus on the work aspect of this situation and not the personal stuff, and by that I mean person X is responsible for task number one, and you cannot do you part until person X does his.

Again, focus on the work, and the impact that their behavior has your ability to do your job. Your manager may never fix or even talk about the personal aspect, but they will ( or should rather ) address issues related to you doing your job.

Remember stick to the measurable facts that impact your productivity and remove yourself from the personal stuff.

  • 13
    I agree with this. point it out directly. adults behaving like children should be treated as such (I do not mean in a condescending way, but a practical way). "Excuse me, X. We're here to do a job, not make friends. I am not friends with ABCDEFG, and I am not friends with you. But you're being paid, as am I, so kindly collaborate with me, or I -WILL- report all of this nonsense." "Z, you don't have time to do your job? aren't you being paid for this?". of course, this is only if you have the personality to pull it off. it only works if you can be "alpha" without being a jerk.
    – NOP
    Sep 15, 2017 at 13:16
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    @NOP This seems like a bad idea - if they are the type of person that is going to assume you've joined their rival's clique and refuse to work with you because of it, I doubt challenging them is going to make them suddenly become cooperative. Sep 15, 2017 at 15:31
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    @IllusiveBrian I understand fully why this sounds like a bad idea, and I agree, the outcome -can- be doubtful. This is why I state it ONLY works if you know how to pull it off. Being suddenly blunt is a great tactic, and not really a challenge, just a "hey, let's do our jobs". It's an option which has worked for me in the past...and actually worked ON me in the past (ahh, folly of youth). It's like just slapping sense into people, only with words, and a devil-may-care attitude. Especially if you're a friendly person, because it's out of character, and takes them by surprise.
    – NOP
    Sep 15, 2017 at 16:07
  • @IllusiveBrian additionally...it serves to demonstrate a complete lack of interest in their relationships and feelings toward each other, positive or not. You definitely have not joined any clique, because you made it quite clear you don't care about their personal feelings. Of course, now they may dislike you, but at least you put it out there, they might begrudgingly work with you, and OP said he/she couldn't care less. Also some people are impressed with a bold approach, and even become friendly (earned respect, another reason I favour this tactic)
    – NOP
    Sep 15, 2017 at 16:20
  • 1
    I agree with this, except to say that you don't need to tell the manager that bickering causes the work to suffer. Tell the boss you're waiting on an answer, and when the boss talks to the person, they can explain to the boss why they're refusing to answer. Better yet, all this would be on a Kanban board the boss sees, and he can ask the person why there's a stack of unanswered questions in his swimlane. Sep 15, 2017 at 16:39

Concentrate on the work aspect of this.

If the relationship is obvious, then address it with them both:

Ok, I know you don't like John/Jane and can't work with him/her, but I have a job to do. Part of that job is working with him/her and there's nothing I can do about that.

I also have to work with you

Can you please concentrate on working with me and forget about him/her?

Or you can ask to leave the project - it's your choice.

  • "Ok, I know you don't like John/Jane and can't work with him/her, but I have a job to do. Part of that job is working with him/her and there's nothing I can do about that." Did this, things improved a bit but they have some sort of "white strike" in place, I needed Machine N 12 offline for some testing... oh well, after decades of being required only even days now it will run 24/7... Sep 15, 2017 at 10:54
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    @Caterpillaraoz in such a case you should escalate to your manager. Explain without judgement that it's becoming difficult to perform the tasks you were given because you're not getting the required information from persons X, Y and Z. Don't say that it's due to them being immature or anything, just stick to the facts without letting any feelings get in the way. A large part of a manager's responsibility is ensuring that their direct reports get what they need in order to perform the tasks expected of them.
    – Cronax
    Sep 15, 2017 at 11:21
  • I have to do things such as this poster is suggesting. It has worked for me. Just remember not to make an enemy and stay within your authority.
    – closetnoc
    Sep 15, 2017 at 15:43

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