Dealing With Personality Conflicts, Bullies, And Harassers
Every work environment at some point may have to address personality conflicts, bullies, and harassers. Sometimes there isn’t a difference between the three. Personality conflicts are a “way of life” for some people. There are those who simply cannot get along with others. In the workplace, an employer can be confronted with scenarios where employees are sometimes competing for the same position or promotion and their once great relationship changes. Accusations of harassment begin flying “to anf fro” and the employer gets caught up in the middle (if they are each from a different ethic background the situation can become even more cumbersome).
From a legal perspective, employers have a responsibility to protect their employees from each other. They need to manage the risks, and be attentive to issues that might spark violence in the workplace. One of the very first workers compensation cases (back in the 1940s-yes, before my time!) was a case where two employees had a personality conflict at work and decided they would handle the matter after work and off company premises. One of the disgruntled individuals showed up with a hammer and beat the “heck” out of the other. The loser filed a workers comp case and the employer argued that it was not work-related. The court disagreed citing the relationship (and incident) stemmed from the work environment. A few years ago the California legislators tried to pass a specific law regarding supervisors who bully employees. It didn’t go through but the direction is clear-employers will have to protect its employees from any kind of violence in the workplace.
To be on the safe side of litigation, an employer needs to communicate both an “Anti-bulling and Anti-violence” policy to thier employees (and especially managers and supervisors). Employees are now suing over this issue and bring their cause of action based on “Negligence.” The underlying element is that the employer breach their duty owed to their employees to protect them from such behavior. Never assume that two employees will “work it out.” If you need us to come in and assist you, give us a call. We have helped to resolve these matters many times. Sometimes individuals are terminated, while other times the two parties realize that being terminated is not worth it.
One final note: Inform your managers and supervisors that yelling and screaming are NOT motivators and that such behavior will not be tolerated.