When one of your employees is regularly shunned by coworkers, you need to take action fast. Allowing the situation to fester can lead to a toxic working environment that drags down morale, decreases productivity and can even negatively effect on relationships with clients. These simple tips can help defuse the situation and begin to rebuild a healthy team spirit.
Begin by having a private meeting with the unpopular employee. Explore their perceived unpopularity behaviour in a gentle, non-confrontational manner. The individual might lack self-knowledge or social skills and be completely unaware of causing offence to others. They might lack the skills necessary for their current role and be shirking certain jobs, causing others to work harder to compensate. There might have been a serious conflict with a coworker that could be resolved with a simple apology, or there might be mental or physical health issues that are causing problems in their social interactions with others.
Focus on the behaviours that can be modified and the workplace issues that you can control. Sometimes just confronting the specific behaviour is enough to bring about a positive change. Make reasonable changes to accommodate the situation, such as altering the individual’s responsibilities, workload or working hours, setting up appropriate training, or even moving the person onto another team. Carefully document every meeting and action.
If the situation is clearly one of bullying by the coworkers, you really have no choice but to confront the individuals concerned, explain why their behaviour is unacceptable and determine the appropriate consequences.
You then have the task of rebuilding the team. Keep team members busily working towards a shared goal and focusing on their own development so they have less time to focus on one person’s real or perceived shortcomings. You can’t force people to become friends, and attitudes towards the unpopular employee are unlikely to change overnight, but if team members see the individual is making an effort or receiving the necessary support to overcome issues they are experiencing, there’s a good chance of them becoming more accepting and tolerant. Meanwhile, continue to call out inappropriate behaviours on both sides until you a have team that works together in a healthy, non-threatening environment.