Have you ever been in a job where there’s been one or more colleagues who you simply do not get along with?
We get to pick our friends, but we don’t get to pick our colleagues.
It seems that in any job, there are colleagues with whom we connect very easily. These are people who we often become friends with and sometimes even spend time with outside of the office.
And then… there are those people with whom we just don’t have this instant affinity. Sometimes these people fall into the category of those who you wouldn’t spend ANY time with if you didn’t have to.
Frankly, there are sometimes colleagues who we just do not like.
Once organizations become a certain size, this is bound to happen. We find ourselves interacting with people with all sorts of different personalities.
Like them or not, to be effective in our jobs, we need to find ways to work with people of all different personalities.
Here are a few tips to help you navigate working with people you don’t like:
1. Make it about the behaviour you don’t like, not about the person.
It’s important to look at how we frame the thoughts that we have about this person who we don’t like.
Framing your thoughts in relation to what the person does that you don’t like, rather than as negative personal characteristics of the individual will help you keep a or more objective perspective. Simply put, it will make things less personal.
For instance, instead of saying to ourselves, “I don’t like Joe,” focusing on behaviours you don’t like, such as “I don’t like it when Joe tells me what I have to do” or “I don’t like it when Joe doesn’t look up from his computer when I’m talking to him” makes it more about the behaviours that you dislike than about the person.
Depersonalizing your thoughts about the person you dislike will not only influence how you manage your negative feelings about the person. It will also help you to identify the behaviours that you need to address in order to be able to work together more effectively.
2. Gossip is not cool.
No matter how much frustration you have towards someone, it’s essential to not speak about them in a disparaging way at the office. It’s simply not professional. And it creates A LOT of stressful communication and drama within organizations.
It’s one thing to address problems that you’re having directly with the person concerned. It’s another to speak about it behind their back. If you choose to spend your time at work unproductively debriefing and complaining about the people you dislike (i.e. gossiping), then you are contributing to a toxic environment within your workplace.
If you’re a leader who observes team members doing this, you need to address it immediately. Not doing so means that you are enabling this toxicity within your organization.
3. Get curious as to why this person’s behaviours bothers you so much.
Instead of firing your fury at the other person, turn inward first. Examine why this person gets under your skin so much.
What is it about their behaviours that you can’t stand? How do you feel when interacting with this person? Is the reaction that is triggered within you when interacting with this person truly proportionate to the person’s behaviour?
For example, if someone had to reschedule a meeting and you’re raging about it, then your reaction may be related to something deeper than this one meeting.
Try to connect with the feelings that are evoked inside of you when the other person exhibits the behaviours that you don’t like. Have there been other situations in your life that have evoked similar feelings? I’m going to go as far as suggesting that if you’re having troubles with one colleague, you may have encountered similar personalities in the past with whom you’ve experienced similar struggles.
It’s possible that the reaction you are experiencing may be part of a pattern of interactions that are challenging for you.
A wise, not-so-old woman once told me that if you’re experiencing interpersonal conflict with a colleague, asking to be reassigned to a different team or changing jobs is rarely the answer.
I was surprised to hear this and somewhat resistant to the idea at first. At that point in time, I thought that boundaries meant being clear about what you will and will not accept putting up with.
However, I’ve come to realize that interpersonal conflict is always about a dynamic between two people. And switching teams or jobs is not really setting clear boundaries about what you won’t put up with. It’s stepping away from the dynamic entirely and avoiding having to deal with it.
Trust me… we don’t learn new skills from stepping away from uncomfortable conversations.
We learn new skills from staying in that messy, uncomfortable space that we don’t want to be in and learning new ways to set boundaries and express our needs in the interaction.
Yes, stress-free communication is about setting boundaries around the ways that we accept and do not accept to be treated. But it’s also about learning how to do this while work with people you don’t like.
If I have you convinced that your role in the dynamic consists of being the person who is committed to taking steps to respond in a way that will manage the conflict more effectively, then hop on over to my website to grab a free helpful resource that will help you navigate difficult conversations at work.
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