Innocent Bystander

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

Two of my colleagues are in a fight to the death and I’m worried I’m
going to get caught in the backlash that’s feeling imminent from our
generally accommodating but increasingly irritable boss. She never
smiles at any of us any more.. The ways they don’t get along are too
numerous to detail. It’s as though they were factory-designed for
conflict. It simmered for a few years under our old boss but is now a
full-scale civil war from 8-5, M-F. There’s nothing one can say to the
other, not even How was your weekend? that doesn’t elicit lots of
muttering and angry comments about “rude” and “sarcastic.” Of
course each one thinks the other is incompetent and error-prone. I’ve
tried to make peace but now I need to watch out for myself before
someone decides to clean house and fire us all. How can I steer clear
of the coming shipwreck?

Innocent Bystander

Dear Bystander:

If the threat of losing their jobs isn’t enough to get their attention,
then not much else will. You don’t say if that’s an explicit threat or just
your fear. But in an economy swimming with hungry people peddling
their resumes, most folks have the sense to park their personality
conflicts at the door. No one, including a supervisor, is irreplaceable.
So if the level of their conflict has her attention, you are wise to perk
up. You need to separate yourself from their battle, even if it makes
your work life a little lonely for a while.

Talk to them and talk to her. To them say the following, in as tough a
tone as you can, and then stick to it, 100%, or risk being lumped in
with the deadly duo: I can’t afford to lose my job because you two are
squabbling. It’s gotten disruptive as well as poisonous and I am not
siding with either of you about anything. If you say something
derogatory I am just going to walk away. Please get your ****
together before we’re all on the street! To the boss, say: I know you’re
concerned about how X and Y have been behaving. I am too. I want to
be part of the solution, if you can tell me how I can help. But please
don’t think I am in any way part of the problem. I’m as disturbed
about it as you are and have told them so. Hope she believes you and
that they shape up. Put on your Loyal Model Employee hat and stay
away from trouble.