Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I just started a new job as the marketing director in an old company.
Among the draws for me was the established character of the firm. It
had a great external reputation, and frequently competed with my
former employer (and won more often than we did). So I switched
teams, moving from being at the top of a small department to having
just one assistant. The pay was more or less equal but I liked the
management and growth philosophies of the new firm. From the
outside. Inside, I am finding a history of hurts, insults, and grievances
that are a decade or more old. I’m so tired of being told who did what
to whom when that I could scream. It’s old, juvenile,
counterproductive, and annoying. How can I move them out of the
past into the future? PS there’s no going back for me.


Dear Newbie:

You’ve got a good handle on the problem. But getting feuding office
mates to reconcile is akin to standing between the Hatfields and the
McCoys. Old grudges deeply embraced can create an air of self-
righteous indignation that Moses, Mother Teresa and Martin Luther
King, would have a hard time gentling. You need to invent a new
company culture to supplant the old one, or you’re going to get sucked
into the old mess.

Think about team building activities that break down the existing units.
If people are used to working together, see if you can split them up.
Identify task-oriented working groups to identify recommendations
that address specific problems, whether that’s pooling contact
databases or cleaning up the company bios. Set up a FaceBook page
for the firm; have people use it for happy things, like babies,
weddings, and their kids’ achievements. Institute regular happy hours
and brown bag lunches. Alternate between sharing information about
work in progress and theme events that have nothing to do with the
office. Job one: get them used to talking to one another. Make sure
management supports changing the corporate culture. Having them
send the message that old grudges are old news will do a lot to
support your agenda and progress.