I recently conducted a webinar for a large group and had this question come up.  It’s one I hear quite often, actually.  I can answer it simply but realize that execution can be a bit more difficult.  The results are well worth it though, so give it a try.

I prescribe to the concept of taking preventative measures to avoid drama between co-workers.  And when I say drama, I mean non-productive disagreement.  There are times when co-workers will not agree over a best process or over the one year goal of a department.  That kind of disagreement, handled professionally, is healthy for the organization.  Disagreeing because one is having an affair with the other’s boyfriend, however, is not.

As a leader, you set the tone for your team.  You can tell them up front what will be tolerated and what will not.  Tell them that they don’t have to like each other but they do need to respect each other and that work time must be productive.

If it is a work related disagreement, encourage them to speak directly to the person they have an issue with and teach them assertive communication techniques.  Communication must always be respectful and appropriate.  When you first implement this new environment you can start by acting as a facilitator of appropriate conversations to model quality communication.

The other conversations that do not pertain to work must happen outside of work and any resulting conflict must not impact productivity.  Period.

If they are not able to adhere to the above, walk them through your discipline process and out the door.  Bickering with a co-worker may not be as tempting if the stakes become that high.