How to Work With Someone You Don’t Like

25 Jul 2016 by Sarah Leembruggen.

When there’s a personality clash at work, it’s emotionally draining and can become an all encompassing distraction, as every irritating habit said person possesses, becomes magnified in your mind. GRRRRRR!

So work it out, or leave? Well, not quite. It may not always be easy, but it is possible to work with someone you don’t like:

Detach yourself. Don’t ignore the person but only engage when you really need to, and keep an emotional distance. Prepare yourself for times when you have to interact and remind yourself to stay calm. If you sit next to someone you don’t like, then try to draw an imaginary wall between you and the other person. Mentally cut them off and block them out until you need to communicate. The more you can do this the better you will feel.

Don’t rise to it. Even if everything your nemesis says is driving you to distraction, don’t react. Getting cross, being curt, tutting, or shouting will only make everyone feel uncomfortable. When you don’t like someone it’s difficult to hide it, and if you dislike them they will sense it, and probably don’t like you either. But keep trying to rub along. Remember to detach and disassociate yourself. The more you practice this method, the easier it becomes.

Don’t discuss your feelings. Tempting though it is to dish the dirt and vent your spleen over lunch, en route to a meeting or at the coffee machine, keep your views to yourself. It won’t improve your reputation to be seen talking behind your colleagues back and may make other people feel awkward. Creating an atmosphere in the office will only make the situation more difficult to deal with in the long run. In the worst case scenario, you could be the one getting a reputation for being difficult to work with.

Think about why you don’t like the individual. Sometimes there seems to be no real reason to dislike a co-worker - you just don’t seem to get along. Some experts say it’s because those people somehow reflect a part of your own personality you don’t like. In which case, can you identify a quality in yourself that you see in the other person and want to distance yourself from? In such cases, ‘those in the know’ suggest that by accepting the traits you perceive as negative in your colleague, you are able to learn more about yourself. If you learn to like yourself, then the office irritant will seem less grating and more likeable….See?

Get closer. OK, so you’d rather run through the office naked than work with this so-and-so, but there is evidence from business gurus at the Harvard Business Review, to show that getting to know someone you don’t like can diffuse tensions and lead to a better working relationship. After all, we’d all rather spend time with people we like. Try volunteering to work together on a brief, run a meeting together, or join the same project team. Give your colleague another chance and you might find common ground.

It’s only work. This is not a personal relationship. It doesn’t need to be deep and meaningful just polite and productive. In most cases it’s just an interaction that doesn’t carry major importance in your life. Put things in perspective and the irritation you feel will diminish. If it’s a boss who is bullying you, then you may want to handle things differently.

Have you turned around a difficult working relationship? Tell us about it @theworksrecruit.

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