Are pranks and grudges putting your company at risk?

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Petty quarrels, childish pranks and ongoing feuds – they might all sound like playground problems at first but, according to one risk assessment firm, inane office arguments can cost businesses thousands of dollars every year.

“Workplace grudges are a genuine phenomenon that have lasting effects right across businesses,” says Protecting spokesperson Mark Hall.

Employment law consultancy firm Protecting, says that bosses across the country are failing to spot petty fall-outs that can rumble on for years with serious implications for staff morale and company profits.

"Sometimes whole companies fall apart because of in-house tribalism literally crippling production,” says Hall. “Sometimes managers don't even realise there's a problem.”

Professional strategist Barbara Bowes says managers need to recognize the long-term repercussions of petty feuds, even if they seem trivial at first.

“Department leaders […] don't want to deal with internal, interpersonal conflict; they want to get on with the key mission of their business,” says Bowes. “Yet, if the conflict, petty or otherwise, is not dealt with, there can be huge costs to the organization and a huge human-resource headache for management.”

“If employees are spending all their time gossiping, protecting their turf, retaliating against each other, recruiting colleagues to support their side of the issue, and planning their personal defence, they aren't working on their assigned duties,” says Bowes. “What happens to productivity? What happens to customer service? I can guarantee that employee morale will be low and that the tension in the air will be so thick you could cut it with a knife.”
Research has shown that managers typically spend three hours a week dealing with employee conflict – taking into account the lost wages of all parties involved as well as the drop in productivity – the cost to your business begins to run very high.
Protecting’s advice? Nip it in the bud. Tackling a problem while it’s still small is much more manageable than taking on an office war that’s been waged for years. Spot it early and stop it spreading.
Gary Barlow-gate

While it’s important for managers to realise the potential damage silly squabbling can cause, it’s also inevitable that there’ll be a funny story or two. During their workplace investigations, Protecting found one respondent who discussed an incident in their office dubbed ‘The Gary Barlow Incident’.

"Two of our clerical staff wouldn't even be in the same room together,” they said. Why?  “One drew a moustache on the other's picture of Gary Barlow,” they revealed. “The worst bit was that it was a whiteboard marker and wiped straight off, but it was 'the principle of the thing.”'

Have you had any workplace pranks or petty feuds that have gone too far? Let us know. 
  • Tom from Burnaby BC on 2014-12-21 2:33:07 PM

    Interesting article.

    An HR manager friend hired me to assess his workplace as his boss had seen and heard some things going on that disturbed him.

    I assisted with an HR project for developing social fun programs that the company wanted the employees to help with and hiring outside was the best way for them to go.

    Soon found that 3 employees had some conflict with the other departmental employees.

    To make a long story short each employee discussed with me why the programs have never worked in a social sense because no one wanted to socialize after hours if it involved the 3 employees at odds with the rest.

    I reported my findings to the company and suggested the company talk to the employees to find some positive resolution.

    The company advised that the 3 employees did have some more issues that affected job performance and team projects.

    One thing led to another and within a month the 3 employees were at the point of termination.

    I approached them on behalf of the company and asked if they were open to options rather than justifiable termination!

    Because I was a member of an employer networking group we managed to place the 3 employees with 3 separate companies and a second chance to be a better team player.

    To date the 3 employees have maintained their jobs without any incidents and are better employees for accepting the change.

  • HR Consulting on 2014-12-23 4:46:34 AM

    Change in the business is a never-ending story these days. As business continues to grow, so will its need to adapt to changing situations and being able to survive through these changes, become that much more critical for ongoing business success.

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