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How to Work with People You Don’t Like

By Kellie Rondon on Jan 20, 2023
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Whether you’ve read Harper Lee’s book, “To Kill a Mockingbird”, or not, you’ve likely heard the famous quote, “You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family”. Well, to a lesser extent, we often can’t choose our coworkers either. 

It’s not uncommon to find yourself in a situation where you simply don’t click with a coworker or two. Or it can evolve into something more significant — you may even begin to despise each other. So, how do you successfully work with people you don’t like? 

While you could start to look for a new job and quit, that isn’t going to help you grow and evolve to become more successful. This is especially true if you like your job, excel at it and respect your other colleagues. What’s more, we all eventually will have to work with people we may find rude, annoying or flat-out offensive. If it’s not this workplace, it could be the next. 

If you find yourself in this situation right now and put some of these tips into action, you’ll be better equipped to professionally address that current coworker who gets under your skin. Because at the end of the day, you may not be able to change your coworker’s attitude and actions, but you can always control how you respond.

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8 Strategies for Successfully Working with Someone You Don’t Like

When your coworker simply gets on your nerves but doesn’t violate workplace codes of conduct or the law, making a conscious effort to maintain a positive mindset can make all the difference in your levels of job satisfaction and productivity. 

1. Identify the Specific Traits That Bother You

By identifying the specific trait(s) that bother you about your coworker, you can separate the behavior from the person as a whole. Determining “why” is the first step toward improving the situation. Was it a behavior, like gossiping about you behind your back? Are they difficult to work with on a team? Do their values differ from yours? And sometimes, we just don’t click with someone and can’t really identify one trait or behavior. If the offending behavior is illegal, like harassment, then it must be documented and reported immediately. Skip to the harassment and bullying section >>

2. Acknowledge You Won’t Like Everyone You Encounter

There will always be some people you encounter in life who you simply won’t like and that’s to be expected. It doesn’t make you a bad person, nor does it make the other person bad. Sometimes, you can simply avoid these coworkers, or at least limit your interactions with them, but that won’t always be possible, especially if your cubicle is next to theirs or you’re assigned to a project together. If you have strong emotions, such as anger or hate, by accepting that this is a normal part of life, you can often neutralize those feelings. 

RELATED: When Employees Harass Coworkers on Social Media the Employer May Be Liable >>

3. Take an Honest Look in the Mirror

Often, it’s easier to cast blame externally and not give ourselves a good honest look. Once we go down the road of assigning blame, almost automatically, we tend to start looking for additional things our coworker says or does that support our beliefs and biases. 

In situations like this, if we can look at our own behaviors, beliefs and energy, we can often find a few things that may be making the situation worse than it needs to be. Taking the first step by recognizing those and nipping them in the bud could be the first step toward diffusing the negative energy between you and your coworker.

4. You Are in Control of How You Respond

While none of us have control over other people’s behavior, we can control our reactions. By implementing the strategies mentioned above, you should be better equipped to stay neutral and professional. Often, when people do things to annoy us, they do so to generate a response. By not reacting, you won’t give them that satisfaction. Plus, you’ll help keep the workplace positive and productive for you and your other coworkers. 

RELATED: Yanking Out the Grapevine - How to Deal with Gossip at Work >>

5. Don’t Gossip

We can’t say it enough, don’t broadcast the fact that you don’t like “Joe”. Workplace gossip can damage relationships between employees who need to work together as a team. It can lower morale, increase anxiety, reduce productivity and lead to turnover. Plus, it can even damage your own professional reputation.

6. Talk to Your Coworker

Sometimes the simplest solution is a professional and respectful conversation with your coworker. It can help resolve a conflict between the two of you, and the feedback, when given appropriately, can help both of you grow into better versions of yourselves.

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Unfortunately, sometimes it’s more than simply being annoyed with someone. Sometimes, your coworker is a toxic employee and the behaviors directed at you are very much personal — and illegal. In this situation, the following steps should be implemented to work toward a resolution:

7. Document the Behaviors

Harassment and bullying are unwanted behaviors in the workplace that involve physical and/or emotional harm to a coworker. Here’s a closer look at what constitutes harassment and bullying:

    • Harassment

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission defines harassment as unwelcome verbal or physical conduct based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information.

Examples of workplace harassment include distasteful jokes, slurs, epithets or name-calling, physical assaults or threats, intimidation, ridicule or mockery, insults or put-downs, requests for sexual favors, offensive objects or pictures and interference with job performance.

RELATED: Intimidation at Work - How to Deal with Workplace Bullying >>

    • Bullying

Bullying is repetitive behavior intended to cause emotional and psychological harm. These behaviors include verbal and nonverbal or psychological tactics like physical abuse, humiliation, teasing, threats, intimidation, insults, sabotage, public reprimands or exclusion.

RELATED: No Room for Workplace Bullying or Harassment >>

8. Report it to a Supervisor or HR

All employees are entitled to a workplace free from harassment and bullying. If you are the victim of workplace harassment or bullying, directly ask the harasser to stop and let them know their behavior is unwelcome. Additionally, report the behaviors to management or HR early on to prevent the situation from escalating.

While you don’t need to make friends at work, having positive, professional relationships is crucial to your success. Sometimes this can be accomplished by adopting “self-help” strategies, but in more serious situations, it is critical that management or HR be notified.

About Axcet HR Solutions

Axcet HR Solutions is a top-rate HR and employee relations solutions provider in Kansa City. Axcet has been serving small to mid-sized businesses under the PEO model since 1988. Meet our team of HR experts >>

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Written by Kellie Rondon

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