Two People Who Don’t (or Won’t) Get Along

Aug 19, 2002

Ask a CEO or managing partner of the typical A/E/P or environmental firm what keeps him or her up at night and you know what you’ll hear? It probably won’t be “selling work” or “getting paid” or “reducing WIP write-offs on jobs,” even though all of these are common issues these folks deal with daily. More likely than not you will hear “dealing with people who aren’t getting along” is what’s really on their minds as their biggest aggravation. Why is that? Is it something about our business that makes the characters we all have populating our cubicles, work stations, and private offices harder to deal with than those in other businesses? Or is it that we, as the leaders, just don’t feel that as individuals we have the skills necessary to do the job properly? Or is it something else? I’m not sure I have all the answers. I have learned a few things, though, over the years of dealing with architects, engineers, planners, scientists, and the administrative and support people who work in the companies providing those services. Here’s a real quick brain dump: Smart people don’t like to be told what to do. Even if it’s obvious that two people need to get along for their own sake and that of the overall firm, no one likes to be told that they have to get along. It’s bound to cause resentment on one or both parties. On the other hand, if you are the boss you may need to say “you two get along or one or both of you won’t be here. It’s too disruptive to the company for this to go on.” People don’t always get along but that doesn’t mean they never will (get along). Sometimes people go through phases where they don’t agree or fight with each other. But sometimes those situations pass. Maybe it just takes time in some cases for the hurt to heal or the anger to subside. Maybe a separation of the two temporarily (if they work closely together) will give each a chance to mend fences. Relationships change over time. Sometimes people start out as friends but end up as less than that. Petty (or not so petty) resentments may build up. Things happen that make one question the character of the other. One gets promoted while another does not. One gets more recognition or becomes much more successful than the other. One moves to a completely different field of work within the firm. All of these things can cause conflict that may not be resolvable. You may need to force interaction. Sometimes people who don’t get along with each other may need to physically sit closer to one another, perhaps even share an office… or work in the same department or office or work group. Maybe each just needs a chance to air their grievance with the other person and then move on. I’m curious about the experiences of our readers. Anyone have any wisdom on how to get people to get along that you would like to share with the rest of us? If so, please e-mail me, and we’ll pass it on! Originally published 8/19/2002

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