Editorial: Help your workers get along

Aug 21, 2014

Mark Zweig offers five things you can do to keep valued employees who just don’t see eye-to-eye.

After working as an owner, consultant, and employee in A/E firms for more than 34 years, it’s interesting to see that getting along with one’s fellow co-workers is typically one of the biggest problems people working in A/E firms face. That’s terrible! We should be focused on getting more work, or improving the quality of our work, or getting paid for our work. Yet those things may take a back seat to the relationship crisis de jour. It’s very stressful for your people. And let’s be honest – it’s very stressful for YOU. It’s your job as the leader to help your people get through these things so they can focus on their REAL jobs. Here are my suggestions:
  1. Two people who don’t get along don’t trust each other. If they are both good people, the reason they don’t trust each other is because they don’t really know each other. Get them together. Make them spend time together – with you and without you. Lunches. Projects. Maybe even move their offices closer together.
  2. Two people who don’t get along don’t have anything in common. Look for common ground, common interests. Find what they both like. Try to get them doing it together. Maybe they will learn to like each other.
  3. Two people who don’t get along may really need to know how you feel about the situation. Talk with each of them. Counsel them. Get them to see the big picture. Get them to understand they are both good, valuable, and critical to the company. They also need to know that you need and want them both there. They may need to know that are both loved to overcome their insecurities. The bottom line is they need to know that you feel they both need to get along.
  4. Two people who don’t get along working together may need new roles. Perhaps these two people are blaming on another for problems such as the way the incentive comp plan works or the way projects get delivered. Consider moving or reassigning one or both of these people to new roles that minimize their interaction and conflict. Maybe this means a new department, division, or even location for one or both of them. If both are good employees, this could be well worth it to preserve them and their contributions.
  5. Two people who don’t get along working together may need counseling – individually. They probably wouldn’t be interested in doing it together. So maybe you need to suggest it or even arrange it. Perhaps you have an EAP (employee assistance program) that could be used to help out. Maybe you have an organizational psychologist you can call in. Maybe this person could make some specific suggestions to you as well. Look for resources.
Here’s the bottom line: Good people are hard to find, especially ones who know your organization and your clients and subconsultants. They are worth investing in and preserving in the organization. Give it your all. Even if you fail the characters involved will likely appreciate your efforts and concerns, and attempts to make their lives better – and maybe you’ll learn something from the experience that will help you be more effective the next time you encounter a similar problem. Mark Zweig is the chairman and CEO of ZweigWhite. Contact him with questions or comments at mzweig@zweigwhite.com. This article first appeared in The Zweig Letter (ISSN 1068-1310), issue #1069, originally published 8/25/2014. Copyright© 2014, ZweigWhite. All rights reserved.

About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.