Imagine having a team full of talented, fun, and respectful professionals ready to take on any challenge.
Doesn’t that sound like the dream team we long to have?
Unfortunately, we don’t get to choose the people we work with. In some cases, you can be put on a project with people who pass or rely on their work to others. Or, you can also be put in a team who are very hard working yet very strict and harsh. Or you might also be assigned to work on a project with an officemate who simply rubs you the wrong way.
In cases like these, how can you possibly work with people you don’t like?
Whether it’s your boss or a co-worker, here are some tips to keep in mind to effectively work with people who drive you nuts.
First and foremost, ask this question:
“Is it them or is it me?”
You might think, “Oh, it’s definitely them.”
However, the right answer would be: it’s both of you.
No matter how unpleasant your co-worker may seem, that doesn’t mean it’s all his or her fault. Take a step back and look at how you might also be contributing to the problem.
Have you done or said something to this person for them to dislike you? Is there something that you just personally dislike which, in the first place, shouldn’t even be in the way of your work relationship?
When your co-worker asks you to speed it up with writing your report, is it because she’s naggy and impatient, or is it because you’ve been submitting it late for the past few months? Examine if a colleague’s complaints are actually valid.
In addition, be wary and aware of the ‘attribution bias’. It is the tendency to associate another person’s mistakes to their character. For example, when someone is late, you may start to think of him or her as someone lazy, not taking into consideration what might have been their actual reason for running late.
When you work with people you don’t like; you’re instinctively influenced by the attribution bias. This may be the reason why, when you don’t like someone, everything they do annoys you.
Be cautious of this bias, as it will only make work more toxic for you.
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Learn more about them and give them a chance.
Try to put yourself in their shoes for once.
Maybe a colleague is grumpy because he or she is going through a rough time at home. Perhaps a teammate can no longer give his or her best because of exhaustion and overwork.
There can be lots of possible reasons; however, you won’t know, and you can’t resolve your concerns with them if you don’t make an effort to see the bigger picture and the story behind things. Learning more about them might not change them; however, it allows you to see things from their perspective.
It won’t hurt to be more understanding of other’s situations. After all, if you were in their place, won’t you find it upsetting to know that someone doesn’t like you for no reason at all?
You don’t need to force yourself to be friends with people you dislike and vice versa just to make things alright. You simply need to be respectful and do your job. Don’t even think of responding to petty or bad behaviour—remember that you are in the workplace.
Here’s a great quote to keep in mind:
In our personal and professional lives, we are constantly hit with one adversity after the other, most of which we have no control over. But the four things we have total control over is how we react, how we adapt, how we breathe, and how we take action.
- Diamond Dallas Page
Always choose to respond professionally.
Part of being professional is to also not talk behind a colleague’s back. It can be quite tempting and overwhelming to talk about someone you are unable to tolerate, especially with colleagues who share the same sentiments with you.
It might seem fun to release your annoyance or grievances towards a colleague over tea or coffee, but think about this for a second: What good will this actually do? Will this fix your relationship or view of your colleague? Will it make you and your team more productive?
The only thing that gossip will do is continue to ruin your perspective towards another person and irritate you even more.
If it helps you to talk to someone about it, you can; however, seek a third-party’s objective opinion on the matter. It’s important to find a confidante who has no stake or involvement or whatsoever on the matter.
When explaining, please don’t make it into a lengthy rant about your co-worker. Simply state the facts as objectively as you can and seek advice on how to deal with the matter.
Pointing back to the previous tip, remember to be professional at all times. Don’t complain, be respectful, and just do your job.
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Address the problem with your colleague.
After understanding a bit more about your co-worker and seeking advice from a third-party, it’s finally time to talk to this colleague. This may sound easier said than done, but since there’s no escaping this person, take courage and just be upfront about it.
Invite this person over coffee or lunch and start by acknowledging the fact that both of you are not in good terms. However, since you need to work together, both of you should identify what’s getting in the way and think of steps or compromises to resolve this.
See if you can find a pattern or a certain factor that triggers both of you. Find out the areas in your work or personality that both of you find unpleasant and that both of you should work on.
This situation can be quite awkward and both of you might butt heads during the process, but remember that this isn’t about you or the other person; it’s about how the two of you can fix the problem together.
If your colleague is not willing to compromise, then that’s already on him or her. You can at least be at ease knowing that you made an effort to fix your work relationship.
Seek help from your manager or HR.
Let’s say talking with your colleague didn’t fix the problem, and it only made it worse. Your next resort would be to inform and seek help from the higher-ups.
If there has been bad behaviour or negligence of work involved, it’s proper to report this to your line manager or HR. However, keep in mind to objectively report the situation and avoid stirring in some personal bias or opinion on the matter. (Remember, be professional.)
If possible, ask your manager or HR to take appropriate actions to resolve the conflict between you and your colleague. If the project is in immediate risk, then switching in another person more suitable for the role can also be an option.
Don’t hesitate to approach your manager or HR as they can really help you.
When worse comes to worst, minimise contact.
When all else fails, and you have no other choice but to really work with people you don’t like, your last resort would be to reduce contact as much as possible.
Keep engagements purely about work and do keep yourself from engaging in unnecessary comments or debates that would only bring tension between you and your colleague. If volcanos erupt every time you meet, then it might be best to, instead, keep things professional at a distance.
It’s important to find ways to work with people you don’t like to make your life more peaceful and make your team more productive.
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Remember, take everything as a lesson.
After everything you’ve been through, what’s your key takeaway from the experience?
How did working with someone who doesn’t like you and vice versa contribute to your personal and professional development?
Working with people you aren’t on good terms with can be quite stressful and overwhelming. The times we feel like making a run for it just to avoid working with a colleague are the very moments that we should stop, turn around, and work through the situation with the person.
In any situation at work and in life, try to always see things in a positive light and look for opportunities even in the most difficult times. The workplace will always be filled with different kinds of personalities; however, the learnings and experience of professionally dealing with people like them will matter and help you in the long run.
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