Two key staff hate each other but I don’t want to lose either of them. Help!

Dear Aunty B,

My two key employees hate each other. They are both in critical roles and I would be devastated to lose either of them.

They have been at each other’s throats for a year and it appears to be competitive jealousy. They talk behind each other’s backs and undermine each other’s work to other staff. Sometimes I feel like a parent having to separate my two daughters!

What do I do? And how do you create a harmonious workplace so this kind of thing does not happen?

J Brent,
Swan Hill




Dear J,

Sounds like you may be a part of the problem.

Let’s call the bickering pair Betty and Better. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What are Betty and Better competing for – for example, a promotion, more recognition, more interesting or valued work, status, leadership within a team? How can you find out?
  • Do you fully understand what motivates both of them at work?…and do they get enough of it?
  • How often and how well do you separately and publicly deliver each of them the feedback and recognition they apparently deserve?
  • Have you created an environment where all employees feel part of a team and are inspired to work towards your vision?
  • Do you give Betty and Better the professional development opportunities they desire?
  • Have you separately raised your concern about the situation with Betty and Better and explained how valuable they are individually to your business?…and have you explained, in an appropriate way, how you feel about the situation?


OK, that’s enough about you.

Now the onus is on Betty and Better to raise their self-awareness. They must be willing to set some personal development goals that will improve their working relationship.


Offer them some development coaching – they will appreciate the investment you are making in them and hopefully the returns will be worth it to you and their colleagues. The bonus is that the coaching will relieve you of all that time and energy you are spending separating your jealous daughters!


If all that doesn’t work, you tried your best and you will just have to quickly adopt out one of those daughters to another grateful entrepreneur. Did you read 30 Entrepreneur Mistakes by Amanda Gome last week? She is not alone in noting that smart entrepreneurs “hire slowly and fire fast”. The last thing you want is some of those other employees leaving your business to avoid getting injured in the crossfire.


Now about that harmonious workplace – that is all down to your ability to lead with your vision, persuasion, transformational leadership and team development skills – a leisurely afternoon flicking or clicking through articles over the last three to five years in the Harvard Business Review on leadership and team building should get you started.


Good luck.


Aunty B - Your problems answered by SmartCompany's business bitch
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