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Post-Woolwich: Tensions In The Workplace

Louis Armstrong sang “What a wonderful world”. And often I feel that it is. Most of us are amazingly lucky, even if we don’t always appreciate it. But every so often something happens which shocks and horrifies us to our very boots and the world doesn’t look very wonderful for a while. The appalling murder of Drummer Lee Rigby last week has made most of us feel like that and has provoked huge emotion across the UK. Not quite 26, with a wife and young child – the poor man had everything in front of him. And in the most brutal and senseless of murders he has lost everything. Perhaps our revulsion is all the greater because the whole thing was recorded.

Such events have a viral impact. In several different instances over the last few days, clients have called because tensions are arising connected to the event. In one case there was a bit of a Facebook exchange between two employees, out of office hours. They were both in agreement that what had happened was dreadful, but there were various expressions of opinion which sparked some bad-tempered snapping between them. Our client, William, was afraid it would blow up at work and called to see what could be done to reduce the risk.

We suggested to William that if it became apparent that there was tension between the two of them, he should sit them down together and give the following message:

What happened in Woolwich was an appalling incident and we are all shocked and desperately saddened by it. He has seen the exchange of views on Facebook. He recognises that different people will have slightly differing views. That’s understandable. However, he wants to give guidance to the two of them that whatever their views, they cannot bring them into work. If they do (or they do things outside work that affect the workplace) and in his view it affects the workplace to any degree negatively, it becomes the company’s business and it becomes necessary for him to intervene.

He should ask them how we can find a way to work effectively together. They don’t have to be best friends, but as a minimum they do have to conduct themselves in an acceptable, efficient and courteous way.

Agree the way forward and say that he hopes that this will resolve matters. If it doesn’t he will reserve the right to explore things formally. Then he should write to both of them to confirm the conversation and keep an eye on things.

If you need help sorting out workplace tensions, get in touch.

Russell HR Consulting provides expert knowledge in HR solutions, employment law training and HR tools and resources to businesses across the UK.

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