“Peace is not the absence of conflict but the ability to cope with it.” – Dorothy Thomas
Despite your best efforts, there’s no getting around it: you can’t stand your co-worker.
It’s more than just a couple of annoying personal habits; you don’t even respect him.
Secretly, maybe you actually think she’s kind of an idiot.
But they’re essential to you being able to get your own work done.
And some days, it feels like they were put on this earth to get in your way of getting the important stuff accomplished.
What do you do when you can’t stand the person you work with?
You don’t have to like someone to work well with them
You’re not going to like everyone you work with. And not everyone is going to like you either.
That’s actually not a problem.
You don’t have to “like” people to work effectively with them.
Everyone feels frustrated by other people sometimes. We all need to let off steam every once in awhile.
But there’s a difference between venting and unproductive complaining.
What doesn’t work
Here’s what doesn’t work when you’re frustrated with someone:
- playing the blame game
- eye-rolling and sighing
- snarky humor or sarcasm
- gossiping or complaining
John Gottman, best-selling relationship expert, has identified four behaviors that, when demonstrated consistently, are highly predictive of divorce in marriage: blame, defensiveness, contempt and stonewalling/withdrawal.
Not surprisingly, these same behaviors also are toxic in a work environment.
In particular, contempt (sarcasm, belittling, cynicism, name-calling, hostile humor, and belligerence) is considered the most poisonous of all four toxic behaviors because it conveys disgust and condescension.
Contempt is fueled by long-simmering negative thoughts about another person, and has been shown to be harmful to our physical health.
And you’re more likely to have such thoughts if your differences are not regularly resolved after they occur.
How to work well with people you don’t like
Try these tips to work more effectively with people who aren’t your favorites:
- Look for request behind the complaint. What’s your biggest beef about this person? Write it down – in fact, make a giant list. Not because you’re going to use this list to blast the other person, but to understand more about what’s actually bothering you. Then, for each complaint, look underneath the frustration: what is your legitimate need, or request, you have? Underneath every frustration, complaint, or problem we have is a need. Identify that and see what that reveals for you.
- Ask for what you need. If you’re stuffing and sitting on problems, hoping that the other person will just “get” it, you’ll be waiting a long time. Once you identify your needs, make a request. You may not get all of what you want, but you’re more likely to get what you want if you know what it is, and are brave enough to ask for it.
- See what you can acknowledge or appreciate about this person. No one is all good or all bad. Even people who are difficult to deal with have positive attributes. Is this person doggedly persistent? How is that helpful to you? Direct and to-the-point? How does that help in meetings? You may not be able to change their unskillful behavior, but you can shift your own perception of their actions.
- Look for what you share. You’re at work to get something done. What is that? What do you both care about? The more you focus on what you share, vs. what you don’t, the differences between you can become assets (see #2) vs. annoyances or liabilities. The strongest leaders put people around them who are different than they are: see where you can leverage what shared interests you have, as well as your differences.
In the Comments below, I’d love to hear from you: what helps you when you can’t stand the people you work with?
And, if you’re looking for more help for yourself and your work team to address conflict and frustration, connect with me for a complimentary consultation.
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