Work with someone you don’t like can be very challenging, no matter who you are or where you work, there will be a time when you have to work with or do business with, someone you don’t like. This person may be a client, a consultant, a colleague, or your boss.
Negative relationships like this can take their toll. It’s likely that you’ll find it stressful working with these people; they may reduce your productivity by wasting your time and energy or upset you with unhelpful comments. Working with them could leave you feeling emotionally drained or frustrated; and, longer-term, they could even cause you to want to leave your job.
If you can learn how to work effectively with them, you’ll reduce your own stress, and enjoy work far more.
I remember working with a particular colleague who from the minute I joined the team made sarcastic comments and was unhelpful. He was very good at talking about himself, but I noticed he rarely took responsibility for any actions for the team. He believed his way was the right one and would aggressively make that point.
At the time I blamed him for the difficult relationship and tried to have as little contact as possible. Looking back I can see he felt threatened by a new member to the team and the new ideas I suggested.
If I had the same issue now, I would have recognised that I had a responsibility to make the relationship work too. I’d have got to know him better to hopefully reduce his fears or had an open conversation with him about how I was feeling.
How can you work with someone you don’t like?
1.Identify specific situations where they annoy you and analyse why.
- Why don’t you like them, what specific behaviours irritate or upset you?
- Does the behaviour annoy you because it reminds you of your own behaviour that you don’t like?
- Perhaps it reminds you of someone you disliked in the past?
- Does their approach clash with yours or your personality?
2. Be empathetic
- What positive traits do they have?
- Put yourself in their shoes what pressure are they under or what could they be feeling?
- Suspend judgement and take the time to get to know the person more
3. Talk it out
- Decide whether having an open and honest conversation would be helpful (don’t avoid it because it feels uncomfortable)
- Acknowledge the tension between you
- Outline the behaviour that is causing tension.
- Have some specific examples.
- Use I statements to explain how these actions affect you
- Ask what you can do to build a better relationship.
4. Manage your emotions in order to work with someone you don’t like
- Dislike creates strong emotions and powerful reactions. Manage your emotions before responding assertively
- If you manage the person involved ensure you use professional objective feedback and coaching to talk it through and keep a record
- Or if the person is a higher level than you thoroughly prepare and again be sure you are objective
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