Take control of the situation by understanding where your feelings are coming from, focusing on your reactions, being kind, and seeking help.
For the most part, your job is great. You enjoy the work you do and you feel like you contribute value most days. But there’s one coworker who really gets under your skin, and you really struggle to get along with them. You’re not alone. In fact, I’ve been there!
We’re not all lucky enough to have that perfect job where every employee gets along with each other. Corporate culture is full of friction between colleagues. Everyone has a unique way of working, communicating, and interacting with others, and sometimes sparks fly.
While dealing with difficult people isn’t fun, there are ways to manage these situations so that you can still do your best work. Here are some tips for working with a coworker you don’t get along with.
Start by understanding why you don’t get along
In order to improve the situation, you need to understand why you don’t get along with your coworker in the first place. Is there a difference in your work styles? Do you dislike their mannerisms or personality? Did they directly insult you in some way?
Identify why you feel this way about your co-worker so you can work through the problem. Depending on the scenario, this may be difficult, but it starts with understanding the issue at hand.
Once you identify the emotions at play, you have some options. You can either sweep things under the rug and move on (this probably isn’t the best solution as our emotions have a way of showing themselves eventually), work through things internally to resolve the challenges, or address the issues directly with someone else.
Be easy to work with
Being easy to work with means being a strong communicator, showing up to work and to meetings on time, setting expectations, and always striving to exceed the expectations your colleagues have of you. By doing these things, you’ll bring the best version of yourself to work every day.
Evaluate your own style of working. Are you difficult to work with on certain things? You may be doing something unintentionally that is leading to friction between you and your colleague. If you see a therapist or counsellor, consider talking through these problems with them. They might have a different perspective on how you are contributing to the friction.
Get feedback from other colleagues to see how you can improve and be easier to work with. Maybe this comes down to improving the way you communicate or modifying the way you react in times of frustration.
Even if you’re not “the problem” in this scenario, time spent improving your own working style is never a waste and it might help more than you think.
Kill them with kindness
As hard as it may be, try being nice to this person. You’ll be surprised what a little kindness can accomplish. Next time you step out for a coffee, ask them if they’d like anything. Or if you’re feeling real brave, invite them to lunch.
By practicing kindness, even with those who are unkind to you, you’ll start to perceived as just that: kind. And here’s the thing: it’s harder for someone to be unkind to a kind person. As the saying goes, fake it ’til you make it.
Try empathizing with them as well. Even if you don’t get along, there must be something you both really like (or dislike). Show them you can relate with them or that you understand their feelings. This will help get you both on the same page and hopefully on the same team.
Control your reactions
You can’t control the behavior of others, but you can control how you respond and how you deal with things. Recognize what triggers your frustration with this colleague and work to get those reactions under control so that those reactions aren’t in control of you.
Perhaps you roll your eyes every time they speak. Chances are this body language is not helping your relationship with your coworker. Or maybe you laugh every time they get upset. Try eliminating that behavior and introduce more respect and understanding into the situation.
Avoid gossip and stay classy
Keep negative comments and disagreements to yourself and avoid spreading gossip within the rest of your company. Gossip leads to drama, and nobody wants that. In fact you might even create more enemies by sharing these negative thoughts. What you say about other people says a whole lot more about you than it does about them.
If you don’t like someone, keep that to yourself and work to resolve those issues between you and that coworker or a manager if necessary. Be particularly careful about how you ask others for feedback on your working style. Talking negatively about someone else behind their back won’t get you anywhere. It can actually make things worse. Stay classy!
Get to know them
This one might be tough, as it requires spending more time with them. But building a relationship with anyone takes time and work. The more time you spend with someone, the more you’ll get to understand them. The same is true for colleagues you don’t get along with.
Try sitting with them at lunch or interacting with them more in meetings. Get outside of the office and talk to them about non-work topics. Get to know them on a more personal level, and be open with them about your personal life as well. By getting to know your colleagues outside of the office, your relationship at work will have a better chance of thriving.
Be the adult
A bad relationship can turn toxic quickly. Aim to be the better, more mature person in the room and avoid letting things turn sour. Strive to be the more reasonable, calm, and humble person. It’s ok to not like someone or to disagree with their opinions, but keep it professional and respectful.
Seek help & set boundaries
Speak to a manager or HR about the problems you’re facing. See how they can help improve the situation. Perhaps you can set up some boundaries or a structure that helps make things better.
For example, maybe you can work from home a couple times a week. Or maybe you can move your desk to a different part of the office to introduce a little more distance between your coworker. If you’ve tried your best to resolve things alone, it may be time to bring the situation to a manager and seek their advice.
As a last resort, limit your interactions with them
If you feel you’ve done everything you can to make things better but aren’t making any progress, you may need to throw in the towel and accept the relationship for what it is. If that’s the case, try limiting your interactions with this coworker if possible. There’s no sense working tirelessly to make amends only to feel exhausted and stressed about a relationship that’s not improving.
Difficult relationships at work must be treated delicately. Remember, you don’t have to like everyone.
There are some people you will encounter in your life that you simply don’t see eye to eye with, and that’s ok. Take control of the situation by understanding where your feelings are coming from, focusing on your reactions, being kind, and seeking help. At the end of the day, this is all you can do in order to maintain a peaceful work environment.
About the Author:
Jake is passionate about all things customer experience. He loves solving problems and creating content that educates, informs, and inspires. Outside of work, he loves spending time outside and playing music.