(Written by Jon Buchler, FEI EAP Counselor)

Sharon considers her options for addressing the sales associates’ grievance that they find coworker Candice to be brusque, rude and unprofessional in her relationship with them. She remembers Bill, her supervisor, had told her she would have a “free hand” in supervising Candice, but also remembers that she has seen them going to lunch on a number of occasions and that Bill had strongly encouraged Sharon to hire Candice.

Sharon sees the following options as steps she could take:

  1. Have a one-on-one meeting with Candice in which she brings the team’s concerns to Candice’s attention and asks for her perception of her relationships with others and what she thinks might improve the situation.
  2. Hold a team meeting in which the team members have the opportunity to address their concerns and Sharon serves as facilitator and works to promote a positive outcome.
  3. Consult with Bill on the team’s concerns and ask his help in coming up with the best way to handle the situation.
  4. Encourage the sales associates on the team to make another effort to reach out to Candice and promote better relationships.
  5. Ask the company’s Organizational Development Director to hold a team building session with the workgroup in order to establish the basic concepts of positive team relationships and assist the group, as a whole, with moving in that direction.
  6. Do nothing.

Sharon quickly eliminates choice 1. It seems premature and could easily be seen as aligning her with the other team members against Candice. She also eliminates option 6 because it would be negligent on her part to ignore the team members’ concerns. She rules out choice 2 because at this stage, it could easily result in a meeting in which the team members “gang up” on Candice, or in which Candice perceives herself as their collective target. Sharon strongly considers option 3 because she realizes she may need Bill’s support in any step she would take, and it would also give her the opportunity to see how he reacts when she brings the problem to his attention. 

She opts to begin with option 5, a team building experience. She likes the idea that it addresses the team’s concerns on a neutral basis while making no assumptions about who is “right” or who is “wrong.” She further likes that it puts all team members on notice that positive team relationships are important and that they all share responsibility for making things work. Sharon hopes Candice and the other team members will “get it” and make appropriate changes in their behavior without having to point fingers or increase the risk of more overt conflict. If it works, then Sharon will have avoided the risk of increased conflict and unpleasantness within the team. If it doesn’t work, she can easily take a second step.

Thinking ahead, Sharon decides that if the team building session doesn’t work, she will consult Bill about a course of action. She supports this idea because if she needs to consult with Bill, she will already have taken a step to address the problem. She believes it will put her in a stronger position with Bill when she consults and will also provide further evidence that the problem is significant and warrants his attention. Sharon sees a consultation with Bill serving two purposes: 1) She can get a feel for his allegiance to Candice and how it might impact outcomes, and 2) she will have his support for any course of action that might result from the consultation.

Sharon is satisfied that she has a good plan of action and picks up the phone to call the Organizational Development Director.