Business Monday

How CEOs address hostility in the workplace


This week’s question to the Miami Herald CEO Roundtable: How do you respond to hostile relationships between employees in the workplace?


To prevent this issue, we look for employees who share the company’s core values (e.g., teamwork) and culture as part of our interview process. We also regularly conduct training, and team-building activities to build trust and strong relationships amongst our team members, again as a preventative measure. If we do observe a hostile relationship, we make it clear to the employees in question that it is not acceptable in our workplace and we would work with them to address the issue and take disciplinary action if it is not addressed.

Ron Antevy, president and CEO, e-Builder


I employ a three-step process: understand what each party believes, verify what’s accurate, and identify and create a solution that requires each side to give something up. Luckily, though, working with a wonderful team of behavioral therapists means we all pretty much get along!

Maria Arizmendi, behavior analyst and president, Progressive Behavioral Science

Hostile relations between team members are a destructive force in any workplace environment. This behavior must be dealt with promptly and documented without exception. The first step is an immediate, direct intervention by providing clear workplace behavioral guidelines followed by coaching and training. If the hostile environment cannot be resolved, termination is a must.

Noah Breakstone, founder and managing partner, BTI Partners


One of Shutts & Bowen’s attributes that sets the firm apart from other firms is our focus on fostering a friendly, collaborative workplace. We believe this helps keep hostile relationships to an absolute minimum and allows staff to focus on firm business. The handful of hostile employees we’ve had over the years receive management attention. Those who are not able to fit in generally do not last. In appropriate cases, the firm has required anger management counseling as a prerequisite to continued employment.

Bowman Brown, partner and chairman of the Executive Committee and the Financial Services Practice Group of Shutts & Bowen


If there is hostile relationship between employees, as the owner I cannot take a position. As long as it does not affect the overall work environment and as long as everyone is productive, I would not get involved. If this hostile relationship is affecting other members of the team or is affecting how we serve our clients, both employees would be put on probation.

Patricia Elizee, managing partner, Elizee Law Firm


This is tough because it is always hard to change people’s behavior. Communication is key both to clearing things up and finding the way forward. We have a few different resources available for our employees to start a conversation, whether they’re most comfortable sitting with their supervisor or calling our hotline. Our first step is to listen — or, if necessary, to intervene.

Richard Fain, chairman and CEO, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.


Miami Jewish Health leadership interacts daily with our employees and the individuals entrusted in our care. The familiarity this lends allows us to see situations, intercede quickly and practice conflict resolution management. Given that we care for people who are bedridden, it is essential that we not allow anything to interfere with their comfort.

Jeffrey Freimark, president and CEO, Miami Jewish Health


Our workplace values are founded on mutual respect and professionalism. If, however, a conflict arose that led to genuine animosity between employees, the matter would be handled through coaching and/or disciplinary action, as applicable. The Trust does not tolerate any activities that could lead to a hostile work environment, and it’s every staff member’s responsibility to be courteous, patient, kind and genuinely interested in the needs and concerns of one another.

James Haj, president and CEO, The Children’s Trust of Miami-Dade County


A member of our company’s senior management meets individually with the respective employees to determine the facts and remind all involved that the goal is individual excellence within a team or collaborative concept. After the facts are stipulated, we strongly encourage the employees to meet privately or in the presence of a senior manager to discuss the source of their hostility and create their own solutions that will lead to a positive outcome. If an outcome that is positive for the company and its employees cannot be found, very difficult decisions are made.

Bob Hohenstein, president and CEO, Miami-Dade County Youth Fair and Exposition


We have a dedicated HR team that works day and night on a preventative basis to manage employee relationships at Terra. We also participate in regular team building exercises and social bonding activities to avoid hostile occurrences altogether.

David Martin, president and co-founder, Terra


Civility and professionalism are paramount in a service business like ours. The best way to avoid employee conflicts is by carefully vetting all applicants on the front-end. We run thorough background checks, conduct several interviews involving multiple members of our management team, and connect with past employers who serve as references. For certain positions, we bring new employees in for trial runs before they are vested with full benefits. In the event that a conflict arises, we either create an improvement plan or make a decision to terminate on the spot. Everything is handled on a case-by-case basis.

Aabad Melwani, president, Rickenbacker Marina, and managing principal, Marina PARC


Broward College is only successful if its team of faculty, staff, partners, and community advocates work together for the common goal of providing access to education for our community. The College emphasizes training for supervisors and our Employee Relations department works with them to effectively manage situations that may arise among employees. We also provide resources to employees who need support navigating difficult personal situations that may surface in the workplace.

Avis Proctor, vice president of academic affairs and president, North Campus at Broward College


We have a zero-tolerance policy toward hostile behavior between employees. We encourage debate in a civil, professional and constructive manner because that pushes us to be better. Each of us is very dedicated to Housing Trust Group’s mission to provide the best quality affordable housing, in an ethical and honorable manner, and hostility in the workplace inhibits us from accomplishing that mission. It’s counterproductive and unacceptable in a professional work environment — and we will simply not allow anything to stop us from completing our mission.

Matthew Rieger, president and CEO, Housing Trust Group



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