Employee Performance Issues

A reader writes…

My company recently acquired another company and I have seen a lot of animosity among employees.  It’s been a case of “them” vs. “us” or “the new way” vs. “the old way” – which is creating low morale, poor attitudes, and is impacting overall performance. What can I do to resolve this conflict?

Dear “Switzerland,”

By the sheer fact that you’re asking for advice, I’m convinced that you’re trying to be a neutral party in this situation (hence the name “Switzerland”). It sounds like you don’t want to take sides, or potentially upset your coworkers by taking a firm stand and stopping this nonsense.

Aren’t you a manager?
Don’t you have the authority to change things?
Or… are you choosing not to?

Bridging the gap between two worlds is not easy, but trying to coax or persuade employees to play nice in the sandbox is not going to get you anywhere.  In fact, it may worsen the situation because people may feel they can walk all over management…. since they’re (you’re) not doing anything.

You must set precise, non-negotiable standards along with clear consequences for not following them. Perhaps a little “Conflict Management 101” is in order:

  • Sit down with the problem employees (individually) and clearly explain company expectations, standards, and what must change.  Be sure to remind them of the consequences if they don’t.
  • Give specifics of what must be done differently – if necessary, explain that future performance reviews, raises, or their JOB for that matter, may be in jeopardy if they do not comply or show immediate improvement.
  • Be aware of triggers and respond to them when first noticed.
  • Have a process for resolving conflicts — bring up the subject at a meeting, and get agreement on what people should do in cases of differing viewpoints.
  • Provide appropriate training for all employees. Teach everyone conflict-resolution skills, and expect people to use them.
  • Recognize and praise accomplishment
  • Last, but not least, discourage gossip.  Gossip makes my joints ache, my head spin, and my stomach turn.  It can poison office morale, relationships, and productivity.

Good luck…. And take charge!

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. John
    Jan 25, 2011 @ 22:03:42

    It’s been my observation that those individuals who set-up the “them” vs “us” mentality are the same ones who do that between any two groups. new employees/old, new company vs old; management vs production, etc. I don’t believe that one needs say anything more than: “It’s too bad that you see them so unfavorably. I’ll bet that they are just as afraid of you too.” “Since frustration is the result of one’s expectations not being met, what did you expect of them?? Is that really a valid perspective?”
    “They” are not your job. When “they” become your job then you can say all you want to about “them”. In the meantime, how about getting about YOUR job, and leave “them” alone?”
    I’ve been there as just an employee. Since I didn’t get a job to make friends, I don’t have a fear of speaking my mind when I need to. The people ate work are friendly, but they are not my friends, therefore their evaluation of me isn’t my problem. Occasionally I make a friend at work. If they are truly a friend, I can speak with them and be respected for my observation, and opinion.


  2. Bruce
    Jan 25, 2011 @ 16:41:59

    How about being told that you are to qualify for the job or that we would not want you to work for us because after reviewing your resume we can see you are used to making more per hour than we can pay,. does anyone who works for human resources tell me what it really means when an employer says you are too qualified for the job, i am a carpenter for more than 11years now and recantly moved to florida and i applied for a job assembleing pallets and was told i am over qualified, what aload of nonsense..


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Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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