Four's a Crowd

This is your typical personality conflict situation - but as you know - none of these conflicts have standard or easy answers.

We have a small branch with 3 tellers, 1 supervisor, and 1 lender. The lender (male) thinks everything is fine. Disregard him. Recently two of the tellers ganged up and complained about the other teller and the supervisor playing favorites, and how the supervisor treated them like dirt. We had a discussion with the supervisor and one of the tellers (the one with the most and recent complaints) and tried to resolve the issues. I have followed up with the teller, the supervisor, the lender (who hasn't seen anything) and one of the other tellers. Everything has been fine.

Until yesterday. Now, the teller whom the supervisor supposedly favored, has switched sides and is on the tellers' sides. According to her, they are all thinking of quitting. They want a meeting with the bank president and myself HOWEVER (get this) they don't want anything done to the supervisor, because she can be pretty nice at times.

I really want to go to the branch and put them all in time out. My real solution is to have a branch meeting, get it ALL out in the open and then counsel (a/k/a discipline) where necessary, and if someone needs to leave - the door is open.

Your thoughts, oh wise HR people?



  • 10 Comments sorted by Votes Date Added
  • I do not get involved in personality conflicts unless (1) I suspect that company policies are being violated, or (2) there is reason to believe that the situation could escalate into a discrimination charge (such as harassment that is based on a protected characteristic like race, sex, etc.)

    Otherwise, I advise the complaintant to talk directly to the person she is having a problem with. Most of the time, a "heart-to-heart" talk takes care of the problem without involving others. (The talk should be non-confrontational... a good faith attempt to resolve the problem.) They are grown-ups and they should try to get along.

    Only after that has been tried and unsuccessful should the complaintant proceed up the chain of command. Her next step would be to talk to the villain's immediate supervisor.

    HR should refuse to get involved in jousting matches between employees unless the company is at risk. (Been there, done that!) As you have discovered, you will quickly become nothing more than the referee at a day care center. Let the employees and their supervisor take care of it.
  • I think that there's more to the story that you need to find out. If they all want to quit but they don't want anything done to the super, then why do they want to quit? I think you should have the meeting with them and the president and find out what the whole story is. Something's changed. Perhaps a one on one meeting with the tellers would help as well. I think I would meet with each teller with the president and get their stories separately. Just my random thoughts.
  • I would not involve the president. This situation sounds like a mole hill, do not make it a mountain. Talk to all parties concerned. Review their past work history. Maybe some transfers to another small branch are in their future.
  • >
    >I really want to go to the branch and put them all in time out. My
    >real solution is to have a branch meeting, get it ALL out in the open
    >and then counsel (a/k/a discipline) where necessary, and if someone
    >needs to leave - the door is open.

    Excellent strategy. Do it today.......and take donuts.
  • Do not overlook the National Labor Relations Act. Although most people believe that the NLRA protects unions and union activists, the statute protects "employees" regardless of whether an union is involved. The statute's opening lines state that employees have the right:

    1. To join, form, or assist a union
    2. To bargain collectively through a representative of their choosing
    3. To engage in other protected, concerted activity
    4. To do none of the above.

    The employees in your situation have gotten together to complain about working conditions. The NLRB will view this action as "protected, concerted activity." It is therefore important not to say anything that would indicate to the employees that management is upset about the "group" complaining about the supervisor. Rather, just handle the situation as the others have indicated.

  • I for one have always maintained and found true, that most department issues like this is rather childish, however, the company is right to move in and set the situation straight. "The door is always open for departure of those who are not willing to fold together and make a team". Mutiny (revolt against superiors)is never to be tolerated in any situation.

    Terminate all three, there are many good people around who are very anxious to work and work as a team!

    Now, that being said, we must look very closely at the leadership traits of the Branch Manager. Just because the Manager was a great technician of the operational aspects of the company for which the company is alive and allowed to perform, does not mean that this individual is cut out to be the LEADER! This situation did not arrive at its present position of hindering the operation because the LEADER was in control, knew extactly what was going on, and had a vision of how to mold the team to "greater successes".

    By the way, this is an operational leadership issue (problem) and I would be offering "the chain of authority" my assistance, but I would not be in the middle of the fray solving the problem or concerns. Choking and killing the children is not your mission, that is where the HR has gotten the title of "HATCHETMAN"; When you do, you could loose the credibility so important for you and the organization as the professional HR element. PORK
  • Pork: Although we've never met, it is my guess that you wear a 3 foot machete' by your side and have body bags behind your desk. Am I warm?
  • 04/02/03 Update

    Well. We had a meeting with the three (without machetes) and the complaints were of some concern - but not a serious concern. Talked with the supervisor, who did a very nice job of refuting without pointing fingers. We (the president and I) decided to have a departmental meeting with EVERYONE to lay all the cards on the table and try to get along. I predict we will lose at least 2 of them. Perhaps that won't be a bad thing.

    Side note - perhaps this will tell you of the maturity level.....I talked to "The Three" explaining that we would have an ALL EMPLOYEE Meeting with the president. They kept saying how serious this was and how upset they were, but couldn't come up with a time to meet. (One didn't want to miss her Mary Kay meeting) Finally, I set the time for 6:00 a.m. and that got them together to offer a more sane time in the afternoon.

    I'll keep you posted.


  • Update 04/08/03

    We (the President and myself) met with the whole branch yesterday evening. Things were said, but I don't feel that we "solved" the problem. We now have the two younger ones only wanting a "business" relationship - don't talk to them unless it's business. The two mature ones (including the supervisor) are going to work on it and make sure that when things are said, they are done in a good way, not a condescending way.

    I think that when there is another opening in the area - we still need to move someone.

    It's those frustrating "emotional" situations where there isn't any winner.

  • As I've said many times... a big part of the HR job is babysitting adults.
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