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Working with someone you hate can be distracting and draining. Pompous jerk, annoying nudge, or incessant complainer, an insufferable colleague can negatively affect your attitude and performance. Instead of focusing on the work you have to do together, you may end up wasting time and energy trying to keep your emotions in check and attempting to manage the person’s behavior. Fortunately, with the right tactics, you can still have a productive working relationship with someone you can’t stand.
If you work with someone you don’t like, you’re not alone… The detested co-worker is a familiar archetype, this is part of the human condition… There are always other people — be they relatives, fellow commuters, neighbors, or coworkers — who we are at risk of tangling with. Avoiding people you don’t like is generally a successful tactic but it’s not always possible in a workplace. Some people are there, like it or not. Next time you find yourself shooting daggers at the person in the cubicle next to you, consider the following advice.
Manage your reaction
Your response to your dreaded co-worker may range from slight discomfort to outright hostility. The first step is to manage it. If there is someone who is annoying or abrasive, don’t think about how the person acts, think about how you react. It’s far more productive to focus on your own behavior because you can control it. This will enhance your ability to handle stress, which means the annoying person isn’t that annoying anymore.
Keep your distaste to yourself
While working through your displeasure, avoid the temptation to gripe with other coworkers. Because emotions are so contagious, you can bring everyone down. Besides, complaining about someone in your work can reflect negatively on you. You may garner a reputation as unprofessional or be labeled as the difficult one. If you find you have to vent, choose your support network carefully. Ideally, choose people outside the work.
Consider whether it’s you, not them
Once you have your reactions in check, think about what it is you don’t like about the person. Is there something specific that sets you off? Is it that she’s just different than you? Does he remind you of your father? Do you wish you had her job? Jealousy and other negative emotions can cause us to wrongly assess and mistreat others. When someone is doing better than us, we tend to scorn them… Differences can make us biased. Our favorite person in the world is ourselves. The more different someone is from us, the more likely we are to have a negative reaction to them. Focus on the behaviors, not the traits, that irk you; this will help you discern stereotypes from true dislike. Start with the hypothesis that the person is doing things you don’t like but is a good person. By better understanding what is bothering you, you may also be able to see your role in it. It’s reasonable to assume you’re part of the problem… Be honest with yourself about your share of the issue. And be on the lookout for patterns. If everywhere you go there’s someone you hate, it’s a bad sign.
Principles to Remember
- Manage your own reaction to the behavior first
- Practice emotional detachment so the person’s behaviors don’t bother you
- Spend time trying to get to know the person and better understand what motivates him
- Assume that it is all about the other person — you likely play some part
- Commiserate with others who could be unfairly influenced by your negativity or may judge you for your complaints
- Give feedback unless you can focus on work issues and can avoid a personal conflict