When Partners Accuse Each Other

Beverly FlaxingtonBeverly Flaxington is a practice management consultant. She answers questions from advisors facing human resource issues. To submit yours, email us here.

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Dear Bev,

The founders of our firm don’t get along. I know I’ve read about this in your column in the past but our situation is unique. They are accusing each other of stealing from the firm, abusing the clients and taking advantage of the employees.

They haven’t done this publicly. But they have done it in front of three of us who are insiders and have been with them for a long time. It’s like a game to see which one will pull us aside to talk about the other one. The things they are accusing each other of are serious. None of us think they are telling the truth. But if they were true, we would be in big trouble if we were visited by the SEC.

We have not asked them to get into a room together. We think this is an important next step. Should one of us do this? All of us? What do we say to get them together (they barely speak to each other anymore and typically won’t attend the same meetings)? I don’t want Mount Vesuvius to erupt but we can’t allow it to keep happening.


Dear Anonymous,

I’ve been in this business for a very long time and every time I think I’ve heard and seen it all, until someone brings a new situation to my attention. This is obviously very serious and I would debate with you whether these partners have been successfully “hiding” their anger and vitriol from the rest of the team. Never showing up to meetings together? Avoiding each other? The team may not know all of what’s going on, but they certainly know something is!

I admire your objective to try and fix this – I’m not sure it is going to go as well as you might think. However, I agree that you need an intervention. Could you suggest an outside business consultant to meet with them, one who is talented at working with partnerships? There are many people who – just like marriage counselors – will work with partners of firms to uncover issues and get them back on a good working track together. For the type of anger you describe, it would be best to get an outsider to deal with them.