Ask the experts: Two of my executives hate each other and 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.

Read more in The Globe & Mail (subscription required).

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