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Tough love from the boss: What to do if your team won't stop fighting

Angry boss, boss yelling, angry office
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I recently received this question from a reader:

I recently began supervising a group of five women who all seem to hate each other. Although I have heard other managers complain about this phenomenon, I have never encountered it before. I had a discussion with the primary perpetrators, but so far there has been no improvement. How am I supposed to handle all this drama?

Here's my advice: If the juvenile bickering stems from job-related issues, then you must help your group resolve them. But if this hostility seems personal, then it's time to establish some non-negotiable expectations. Here's one way to kick off that discussion:

"Unfortunately, I have some serious concerns about the future of this group. Although you have the potential to be a successful team, right now there is a lot of childish squabbling. So I'm going to explain what needs to change, then you must each decide whether you can meet those expectations.

"First, let me emphasize that co-workers don't have to like each other. Since you don't get to choose your co-workers, you probably won't like all of them. But you still must be able to work with everyone, regardless of how you feel about them.

"Specifically, you are expected to be consistently pleasant, helpful, and cooperative with one another. Those are the three words to remember: pleasant, helpful, and cooperative. I will be glad to help you solve any work-related problems, but the personal quarrels must stop now.

"As a group, we need to create a more mature, professional office environment. I will be talking with each of you privately about your plan for making this happen, because that will be a requirement for continuing to work here."

Changing the culture of your combative team will require follow-through and persistence. But, if you recognize those who comply, correct those who resist, and get rid of anyone who refuses to change, the drama will eventually disappear.

Commentary by Marie McIntyre, a career coach ( and the author of "Secrets to Winning at Office Politics." Follow her on Twitter @officecoach.

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