How to work with someone you really don’t like

Nothing in life is perfect. It’s inevitable, that sooner or later we’ll all have to deal with a colleague, boss or subordinate that we just don’t like. It could be down to a simple clash of personalities, annoying habits, a poor work ethic or someone that continually rubs you up the wrong way for some reason.

Dealing with difficult people and difficult relationships is part of life. It doesn’t matter where you work, or how often you change your job, you’ll find these people everywhere you go. There will always be someone you dread having to deal with.

You’ll try your very best to ignore and avoid them, in an attempt to make your life easier – however, that isn’t always an option. It’s inevitable that one day you’ll be in a situation where you have to work out your differences, suck it up and work together.

In an effort to get you through, here are a few ways to work with someone you really don’t like.

Get to know them

None of us are perfect – although there are people out there who believe they are. The truth of the matter is that none of us are designed to get along with everyone. Life tells us that we like and get on with people who are more like us. And being around someone who is fundamentally different than you can be tricky. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t find ways to build a working relationship with them.

So get out of your comfort zone and get to know the person you dislike. If you have no choice and have to work with someone you don’t like, then you might as well attempt to make the situation and relationship better. Try to bring down your barriers, look for similarities between each other and work out both of your likes, and dislikes. If you can do this then you may find them slightly more likeable that you originally thought.

Don’t take it personally

If the primary reason you dislike a person is because they constantly behave like a moron, the situation can be more complex. It’s really difficult to work alongside someone who is always rude, causes you grief, or enjoys goading you. One important thing to remember is that they’re probably unaware how much they piss you off.

Remember how you behave when you’re having a bad day, or arrive at work after an argument at home, or a crappy commute journey – I bet you’re attitude stinks! Look at the person you don’t like with this in mind. Maybe they have things in their life that annoy them, feel unwell, or unhappy within themselves for some reason. Or it could be that their boss is even more dislikable than they are and that causes them stress, anxiety and worry.

Try not to make it all about you and how you feel. Try to understand them, give them a little slack, be kind, and let all their annoying behaviour and attitude roll off your shoulders.

I have a saying whenever I meet or have to deal with an objectionable and dislikable person – “Thank God I’m not like you”.

Photo by Oliver Ragfelt on Unsplash 

Stick to your style

You’re going to have to work with people you don’t like, but you don’t need to let them walk all over you. Be clear in your mind about how you want them to behave with you; how they communicate, interact, and show you respect. You can do this by becoming clear with your communication, set boundaries of acceptable behaviour and only respond when they behave ‘normally’ with you. So don’t answer every confrontational email, don’t respond to every challenge and never loose your shit in front of them.

Confront them about what and why they’re behaving like they are. Direct them to a better alternative way of communication and behaviour – and if they want to interact with you, make sure they know exactly how they need to do that.

Try to get along

Simple things can make a huge difference. For example, why not start by acknowledging they actually exist! Say “Good morning” to them, offer to make them a cup of tea, hold the door open for them. Yes I appreciate this will be going against everything you really think or feel about them, but sometimes we need to make a little more effort. When you do these little things, do them without a look of contempt or a sarcastic grin! These small gestures can help the person respond in a completely different way.

Calmly take control

Hold yourself back. Seriously! When the toxic person throws a tantrum, or behaves like a child, don’t give them anything that would help them continue their rant. Reserve your thoughts and energy, take a few deep breaths, and wait for your gut reaction to disappear. When you’re calm in yourself, only then can you deal with them.

Start asking them questions. Try and establish facts of why they’re having this hissy fit. Try to get to the heart of their problem and work out what or if you can help them with the situation. By calmly approaching them with considered questions will you be able to calm things down.

I’m a true believer in ‘killer questions’. Questions that have the ability to deflect a tantrum, spark alternative thinking, and highlight alternative ways of behaviour. Questions that put you back in control of any situation.

Take a break

Research informs us that the more people we like the more productive, successful and easier our lives are. With this in mind, why do we put ourselves through confrontational situations with people, believing that we need to be friends with everyone? We don’t. So, let’s give ourselves a break and be a little more thoughtful of our own needs and choose the people and friends we really want around us.

We never want to be friends with people we don’t like – that would be a very strange thing to do. But we do need to be civil, courteous and polite to the people we work with and are around us – even if we don’t like them.

By setting limits on how much time and energy we give to people we don’t like, we provide ourselves with a greater chance to disconnect from their noise, rather than grinning and bearing their abhorrent behaviour. If you can’t physically escape them their presence, try putting your headphones in, going for a walk around the office, go and talk to someone you do like or say “I just need to get in the zone” – hopefully then, they’ll take note of their behaviour and stop!

Your goal in this is to give yourself a chance to breath and calm your mind away from their annoying monologue.

Your body says it all

Body language can demonstrate power, raise testosterone, indicate you’re lying, or give strong signals that you don’t like someone. If you’re ever going to create a better relationship with a person you don’t like, then you need to learn to control your body language.

Take on board what you’re saying with your body. Don’t snarl at them, try smiling. Maintain eye contact, lower your shoulders and stop leaning forward. Folding your arms is also a key sign of defensiveness – so avoid that too. Hard I know, but if you can take control of your body, you’ll help make the other person feel more comfortable and not threatened. Remember, people who feel threatened are more typical of behaving aggressively towards the perceived aggressor – it’s a vicious circle.

Photo by Intricate Explorer on Unsplash

Final thought

We all have to work with someone we don’t like at one point or another. If we can learn to take steps to develop a working relationship, even if you can’t stand someone, you’ll find that life becomes simpler. So bite your tongue, make some changes and try to put up with the unbearable – you’ve got this.

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