Report on Business: Ask an Expert
Two of my executives hate each other. They’re both good at their jobs and it doesn’t affect their performance, but they bicker constantly. What should I do?
First of all, ditch your denial and acknowledge their feud absolutely has effects—not just on the executives, but on everybody else in the organization. “When two senior people fight, the rest of the staff naturally chooses sides. It’s negative, it sets a bad tone, and it spills over,” says corporate conflict mediator John Curtis. So start with a professionally conducted survey of the whole staff. “This will help you understand the broader impacts and help inform how you design your mediation process,” explains Curtis. You could bring in an expert, or you could toughen up and deliver an ultimatum: “If you can’t work this out, one of you is going to go.” Then stand by your word. “Unless there are consequences, there’s just no motivation to improve the relationship. It will just get worse.” In the meantime, mediation should encourage your bickering execs to work things out. If not, it might save you from having to make a choice. “Sometimes the best thing that comes out of mediation is that someone self- selects themselves to leave,” says Curtis. Problem solved.
I have an “open-door policy,” but that means people are always interrupting me with their problems. How do I find time to get work done?
Now more than ever, managers need to be compassionate and supportive, says Maria Rotundo, professor of organizational behaviour and human resource management at the Rotman School of Management. An open-door policy—whether literal or virtual—brings “potential benefits like relationship building, establishing trust and promoting a culture of communication.” Theoretically, your open-door policy is working all too well; the employees clearly feel welcome, comfortable and communicative. Practically, however, it’s unsustainable and overwhelming—particularly for just one human. There’s no easy answer here, notes Rotundo, but there are certainly ways to make life easier. “First, establish some boundaries to help manage these conversations and keep them on track,” she says. Clear company policy and protocol can plainly state when to go to the boss, when an HR rep is needed, and when venting with a colleague will do the job just fine. If and when it’s your turn to listen, remember this is an opportunity to empower your employee for the future. “Through these discussions, you want to help the employee unpack the problem but also take a leadership role to solve it.”
One of my employees takes a nap every lunch hour. Should I object?
“Unless they’re snoring through the walls or falling asleep in meetings, what’s the problem?” asks Lisa Bélanger, behavioural medicine doctorate and unapologetic nap enthusiast. “Sleep science proves that a short nap is incredibly beneficial—it reduces fatigue and increases alertness, memory and reaction time. It improves performance, and for bosses that’s a great thing.” Nappers as slackers is an old (North American) myth that forward-thinking companies reject—in Sweden, for example, companies are required by law to have a nap room. You might not go that far, especially these days, when many of us are working from our bedrooms anyway. But do offer up some sleep support with a non-judgmental conversation that lets them know they need not nap on the sly. Are they okay? Are they burning out? Not sleeping at night? If there’s a problem that needs fixing, the company should help if it can. But if not, if the employee simply thrives with a power nap, then just be glad they don’t spend their break chain-smoking and butt out. Or even better, suggests Bélanger, “gift them a pillow.”