Dear Evil HR Lady,
I am a manager of a small healthcare facility with a staff of 8. I hired a new nurse who was very competent and intelligent, but who was instantly disliked by another nurse (we’ll call her the “old nurse”), who had been there for many years. The “old nurse” went about trying to undermine the new nurse in every way. She constantly pointed out the slightest mistake or imperfection, and succeeded in getting some of the other staff members on her side, so they all came to me and wanted the new nurse fired. I didn’t want to let her go because she was more intelligent and competent than the other nurses and had the potential to be a greater asset to the company. I told them I couldn’t fire her just because they didn’t like her when she was otherwise competent in every way.
So, Evil Lady, would I have had grounds to fire the new nurse? Can you be fired just because someone who has been there longer doesn’t like your style? How do you get employees to grow up and just get along, for heaven’s sake?
Fed Up Manager.
Dear Fed Up,
The Evil HR Lady has to make some assumptions with your question. She assumes you are not in a unionized facility (8 people are unlikely to make a union) and she assumes you don’t live in any whacko state like California. (Not that there’s anything wrong with California, they just seem to like to make laws because they can. Not because they should.)
As long as everyone is an “at will” employee, feel free to fire away. As long as you aren’t firing someone based on their Race, gender, pregnancy status pizza preferences, etc. Ooops, Evil HR Lady got carried away. Currently the law allows you to fire people for preferring Ham and Pineapple Pizza, which the Evil HR Lady thinks is a shame. Most companies have clauses in offer letters regarding the “at will” status of an employee. (And as a little legal note, the Evil HR Lady is not a lawyer although she has seen almost every episode of Law & Order which should count for something. Unfortunately, it doesn’t authorize her to give legal advice, although it should.)
But your bigger question is how do I get my staff to stop acting like toddlers? (The Evil HR Lady is paraphrasing, and it’s not really a good paraphrase: Junior High Students would be a better paraphrase, but she shudders whenever she thinks about Junior High.) The standard HR answer is that you should focus on Team Building or have a big warm fuzzy staff meeting where you explain that we are all together in this and we need to get along. Big Hugs! Then your problem will go away.
The real answer is this petty undermining behavior exists at all levels. Evil HR Lady wouldn’t put up with it. Fire the Old Nurse. (Remember, Evil HR Lady is not offering you legal advice! No Legal Advice here!)
Evil HR Lady