We all know the fall out from intra-team squabbling:  a break in trust, team members taking sides, and a huge ebb in productivity — to name just a few results.  Alas, wherever human beings are present, arguments are bound to happen; we all have egos.  Fighting is unfortunate, but it’s natural. In the end, it’s up to the individuals, and the team, to navigate those rough waters as skillfully as possible and find a way back onto the same page.

But what about the effect of fighting and misbehavior on those around you: those outside the team?   In a February 2012 Inc. Magazine article titled “Be Kind to Your Co-workers–Or Else”, J.J. McCorvey discusses the findings from a recent study that reports some alarming results:  “When customers witness employees being disrespectful to one another…[they] not only get mad, but they often try to punish the company in some way.”

Think about it.  You’re in a restaurant and you see two waitpersons fighting.  Or you overhear a manager chewing out a busboy.   How do you then feel about that establishment?   Chances are, not very good at all.  No matter the quality of the food or the overall service, you’re probably going to leave the restaurant thinking “this place has problems;  they don’t respect each other; it’s unpleasant to be around.”  As the author of the Inc. article notes, “When a skunk is angry, it sprays the thing it’s angry at, but everybody else within a 3-mile radius has to smell it.”

The ramifications are clear:  squabbling and disrespectful behavior is felt by everyone in the vicinity — not just the people directly involved.  And if customers are doing the overhearing, it can lose you business!

So, if occasional fighting is unavoidable, what do you do?

McCorvey suggests:  “Business owners may not be able to monitor employee interaction, but they can create cultures in which respect is valued.”   You can write “hospitality” into your mission statement.  You can hold communication trainings.  And at the very least, you can stress the vital importance of keeping your fights private — away from the public eye.

Remember:  clients are always scrutinizing your behavior — not only in relation to them, but also in how you act towards each other!