Vivek Paranjpe, Consultant & Strategic HR Advisor to Reliance Industries answers professional and ethical dilemmas faced by our readers at their workplace.
Question: Dear Sir, The Head of Accounts Head and the Financial Controller in my company are required to work together, but they cannot stand each other and therefore, they are unable to work together, thereby interrupting the workflow. While the Head of Accounts is an experienced and knowledgeable person, he does not want to commit to a decision. The Finance Controller, on the other hand, is a much younger individual who does not think before emailing or saying anything, to anyone, and therefore their personalities are clashing. While I have tried to talk to them separately, as well as together, their issue seems to be only getting worse. They are now also involving other department heads in their issue. What should I do?
Answer: From the information that you have stated before me, it is not clear to me how your organization is structured, and hence difficult to respond to your query. However, interpersonal conflicts in workplace are not unusual. But if such conflicts exist in the leadership team, they can have an adverse impact on the organization and its productivity. I am guessing that both gentlemen report to a common boss, perhaps the CEO or the CFO. As HR Head, you need to work with their common boss, and try to understand the root cause of the conflict. You should try to focus on the root cause rather than on the symptoms.
If it is an organizational issue that is causing the sore relationship – such as a role overlap, or non clarity of roles - you need to fix that first as conflicts are bound to happen in a case. Find out who can influence them inside the company, and use his/ her help to bring some sanity in their relationship. Coaching and counseling from you and the common boss should help. If that does not work, you may want to address it directly and clearly to both of them together. A direct confrontation also helps many a times and may just be a better approach in this case. You could share with them the facts and data to show how their relationship is counterproductive. Most adults who are reasonable and logical will change with such an intervention.
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