It all started at a printer.
Sue used to send her printing to the printer but, rather than immediately picking it up, would leave it for a few minutes, sometimes hours. Not with any intent—she just got distracted. But before casting a stone for this heinous crime, admit it: we have all done it.
John didn't like having to sort out someone else's printing when fetching his own—who would? So one day he decided enough was enough and put up a sign above the printer. The sign read:
PLEASE PICK UP YOUR PRINTING.
IT IS DISRESPECTFUL TO LEAVE IT
FOR OTHERS TO SORT OUT.
Of course you know what happened next. Sue—who left her stuff in the printer—saw the sign as a direct attack on her and felt offended and humiliated. And she responded in kind. Sue's retaliation wasn't overt or loud, but in her mind she placed a black mark against everything and anything John said or did in the office. It started with small things—expressing opinions contrary to John's at the team meeting, and refusing to participate in projects or working groups John was involved in.
John also changed his behaviour towards Sue. Responding to Sue's contrary behaviour, John made every attempt to point out flaws, mistakes or shortcomings in Sue's work to anyone in the office who would listen.
The relationship had quickly become adversarial; the battle lines had been drawn.
Fast forward four years.
The team that Sue and John belong to is in total disarray. There are now not one, but two, longstanding grievance procedures ...