When employees begin bickering and tattling, joining the game is not a helpful strategy. So instead of trying to micromanage relationships, gather your group together for a frank discussion about appropriate conduct at work.

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Q: I may have reacted inappropriately to an employee complaint. Last week, “Tracy” told me that a co-worker was being “catty” to her and making rude remarks. Tracy also complained about two other people who do a lot of whispering when she’s around.

I took the “catty” co-worker aside and informed her that she had hurt Tracy’s feelings. However, now I’m wondering if this was the right thing to do. I haven’t talked to the other employees yet, so I would like some advice on how to manage this situation.

A: If you fear that you have become overly involved in this schoolyard squabble, I agree with you.

When employees begin bickering and tattling, joining the game is not a helpful strategy. So instead of trying to micromanage relationships, gather your group together for a frank discussion about appropriate conduct at work.

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For example: “Because we seem to be experiencing some unprofessional behavior, I need to remind you that this is an office, not a social club. You don’t get to choose your colleagues, so you may not like all of them. But that really doesn’t matter. Regardless of your personal feelings, you are expected to be pleasant, helpful and cooperative with everyone.”

Next, engage the group in defining specific guidelines for mature, professional communication. Ask them to assess their own team against these standards and create an action plan for improvement. In future staff meetings, set aside time for regular progress checks.

After that, if some backsliders continue to engage in workplace drama, just treat it as you would any other performance problem.

Submit questions to Marie G. McIntyre at yourofficecoach.com.