You’ve just been cleared of allegations made by a co-worker that you’re a “bully.” But now you have to go work closely with the person who accused you of being a bully. How best to manage this intrinsically fraught scenario?
It comes up quite a lot in my line of work. After an investigation, assuming the parties still have to work together, there is often tension, hurt feelings and other strong emotions. HR can play a significant role in helping to smooth ruffled feathers. I suggest a three-pronged approach:
1. Meet with the complainant. Explain that he is expected to perform his duties with the requisite skill and diligence, and to behave in a professional and cordial manner. No matter that he feels the investigation should have gone his way. No matter that he still believes he’s been bullied (or whatever the allegation was). And explain that while there will be no retaliation, he is expected to do his part to establish a collegial relationship with the alleged wrongdoer.
2. Meet with the alleged wrongdoer. Explain that emotions notwithstanding, she is not permitted to engage in any kind of conduct that is or could reasonably be construed as retaliatory. That does not mean she can’t hold the complainant to the same standards as everyone else. Nor does she need to tiptoe around the complainant. But she is expected to do her part to establish a professional and cordial relationship and working environment.
3. Check back in with both parties. If issues arise, consider sitting everyone down together to review expectations and to spark the healing process. It is not easy, but it can be done.
One more thing: document all of these conversations. Good luck!