Keeping it together

May 07, 2018

One of the most frustrating aspects of being a business owner is when two or more employees – or worse – two or more work groups – both productive ones – don’t get along. One decides that they are making all the money. Or one decides that another group isn’t as profitable as it should be. Or someone thinks that someone else is being treated better than they are. Or one of many other things happens, large or small. Sometimes when this situation develops I just feel like banging people’s heads together and yelling at them, “The enemy (if there is one) is outside! We’re all on the same team!”

Even if it were possible to actually knock heads, it probably wouldn’t make a lot of difference. Some people just seem bound and determined to compete with and/or battle with everyone else.

So what can you do to foster better relationships and reduce harmful inter-company competition? Here are my thoughts:

  1. Investigate and hear everyone out. Sometimes people are upset for good reason. Don’t just assume that their problem is all on them. That’s a mistake a lot of managers make – assuming the complaints aren’t legitimate because of their own preconceived notions about things.
  2. Be careful what you measure and report on. Your scorecard could be a major factor in creating the problem. People don’t always see the long-term results. And overhead allocations are arbitrary. And some units have the work they have because other units get the client in the first place. There are many complex interrelationships that need to be acknowledged.
  3. Make sure your bonus program doesn’t reinforce the wrong things. If it is too slanted toward individual performance and group/team/department/office performance versus company-wide performance, you could be “getting what you are paying for.” My inclination is to pay out most of the money based on how the company performed overall.
  4. Give praise where it is due – consistently and publicly. This is essential. If it is perceived that you have pet favorites, you’ll have some very unhappy people. Who you talk about and promote will determine this. And who you spend time with, too, will do the same. It makes a statement about who you like and who you don’t like.
  5. Don’t talk about other people in a negative way. You could be inadvertently contributing to the problem if you do this. You could be clearing the way for people to be too critical and judgmental. I am sure I have done this myself in the past but try to be more careful these days because I realize how toxic that can be.
  6. Promote the idea of “one for all and all for one.” Bring up the issue at meetings. Talk about it, including the idea that various units do well at different points in time. Or how having one service line that is ostensibly not as profitable as another still benefits everyone and how. Or do as one CEO I know does – he has gone as far as putting “One company” on his email signature.

Mark Zweig is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at

Subscribe to the electronic version of The Zweig Letter for free.

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.