A workplace grudge can have serious ramifications for a company. The person holding the grudge is unlikely to work well for the person in question. They may sour the atmosphere in the office and even turn other employees against you. Someone with a grudge may also feel justified in seeking revenge by reeking damage on your company. This could manifest itself as sabotage or even crime if an employee with a grudge feels like they have nothing left to lose.
Approaching an employee who holds a grudge against you can be incredibly tricky. It’s a situation that is bound to feel confrontational. And, if you’re in a more senior position than the employee, both sides of the conflict may find it difficult to be open and honest about the issues at play.
However, it is by no means a hopeless situation. Here are some tips for approaching an employee who holds a grudge against you:
Deal With The Issue Promptly
When it comes to dealing with an employee harboring a grudge, it’s a good idea to nip the issue in the bud as soon as possible. Grudges left unchallenged or unresolved can fester and damage team morale. You may end up with a much bigger problem on your hands if you take the stance that things will blow over and improve over time.
Use Non-Confrontational Language
When meeting with the grudge-bearer, try not to use the word “you”. This can be seen as confrontational and put paid to any attempt at communication. Instead, use non-confrontational language like “us” and “we”. For instance, “I don’t feel like we’re working as well together as we used to”. See the issue as a problem with the working dynamic rather than a problem with either party.
Think of Specific Examples of Behaviour
When it comes to discussing the issue with your employee, you may need to have some examples of their negative behavior. With specific instances to reference, you make it much more difficult for the employee to deny that there is a problem. However, always be careful to deliver these examples as questions rather than accusations in order to prevent an increased sense of confrontation.
An employee doesn’t develop a grudge against you for no reason. Whilst your employee may not have a justifiable reason, they’re sure to have a reason all the same. When your employee begins to tell you about the source of the bad feeling, it’s extremely important that you listen and try to understand their perspective on things before giving your side of the story.
Admit Your Mistakes
If you realize, from what your employee tells you, that you have done something to offend them, do your best to rectify the situation. If you overlooked them for a promotion, try to be more transparent in your selection process next time around. If you failed to be there when they needed you or accidentally insulted them, admit that you were wrong and put measures in place to reassure them that it won’t happen again. Demonstrating accountability should earn you back some respect in their eyes.
Try to Move On
Once a grudge has been discussed, it can be better to move on from the issue rather than dwell over it. You and the grudge-bearer will best be able to show a renewed feeling of respect and acceptance through the usual daily tasks and activities. If a problem persists, however, it may be worth having another meeting, perhaps with a mediator, to find out how the grudge-bearer sees things progressing.
Working with and managing someone who holds a grudge against you is a big challenge for every leader. If you suspect someone is behaving negatively towards you, don’t let sleeping dogs lie. Tread carefully but quickly to resolve the issue before it becomes entrenched.
Lucy Taylor is a legal expert, a pacifist and a blogger from sunny Sydney, Australia. She is also a part of the team at LY Lawyers, experts in the fields of criminal and traffic law. Lucy might often be found online, defusing conflicts and sharing her suggestions with all those who need legal help.