6 Tips for Working with People You Dislike

You Can Work Effectively with Coworkers You Don't Like

You can get along with a coworker you dislike - with some effort.
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It would be totally awesome if you always worked with people you liked. People who you not only respect in the workplace but were happy to socialize with outside of work, too. Wouldn't that be a dream come true?

Well, maybe, and maybe not. Some people like to have a complete separation between work and social life, but everyone wants to have a nice place to go to work. Unfortunately, sometimes you get stuck working with a coworker you not only don't click with but whom you actively dislike.

How do you survive this? (Sure, you can always get a new job and quit, but it's pretty silly to give up a job that is otherwise good because of one coworker you dislike.) Here are six tips for getting along with even the most annoying people.

Document bad behavior.

I used to work with a woman I couldn't stand. At first, I thought it was just my own pettiness. She was pretty and smart and rapidly climbing the company ladder. Was I just jealous? I convinced myself that that was the case - I didn't like her because I was just petty and jealous.

Now, that is a reason to cause you to dislike a coworker, but in this case, it turns out that wasn't the reason. When she lied to a senior person in another department about work I had done, I realized that she was simply a horrible person.

At that point, I was able to see that I wasn't the only person she had happily sacrificed to make herself look better.

Once I learned this about her, I understood that my unconscious had picked up on her sleazy character before I could see it clearly.

But, I still had to work with her. We were peers, so I had no hire/fire power over her. I otherwise loved my job. So, I actively changed my interactions with her. Knowing she had no trouble lying about our conversations, I stopped speaking to her face to face and communicated via email so that I documented every interaction.

While she remained a rotten person, she never did anything to hinder my career again. She knew she wasn't getting away with that again.

Identify if you're actually the problem.

Sometimes the reason you don't like a coworker is because that person has the same bad habits that you do. When they reflect back at you, you don't like it. Sometimes, you dislike a coworker because that person is always criticizing you or telling you what to do.

Ask yourself if her complaints are valid. For example, when your office enemy says, “Are you going to get that report done on time?” is she picky and naggy or have you finished the report late for the past 3 months? If it's the latter, you can fix your relationship by fixing your own behavior.

Try to learn about that person.

You give people you know and like the benefit of the doubt far more often than you give it to strangers. When you learn what causes your coworker to tick, you might like her better.

For instance, your coworker who is crabby all of the time might just have gone through a terrible divorce where she lost custody of her children. Understandably, she's not happy at the moment. Maybe management passed her over for promotions three times in a row.

Maybe she has a deep and abiding love for cats and just wants to talk about them.

Anything is possible and it doesn't make the person even nicer, but it makes you see where she's coming from. And that can help you.

Be the adult.

When you were in school, teachers expected you to get along with everyone, no matter what. If you could do that when you were seven, why can't you do it at 37? You can. You don't have to become best friends - you do need to be polite. You need to do your job. Help people. Don't respond to pettiness and bad behavior. Just act nice and professional all of the time.

Never, ever gossip.

When you have a coworker you dislike, the temptation to talk about her with the coworkers you do like can be overwhelming. It's fun to sit at work and talk about horrible Helga and the way she chews her food or uses Comic Sans in her email.

Ask yourself, what good will this do? Will it help your relationship with Helga? No. Will it make you a stronger candidate for promotion? No. Will it make your department more productive? Of course not. Don't gossip. Don't complain. Just be nice.

Seek help if necessary.

If your coworker causes actual problems with your work, talk to your manager. Ask your HR manager for tips about getting along with your coworker. They really are there to help and many times, it's possible for a manager to rearrange assignments so that you don't have to constantly interact with a coworker you don't like. This is a last ditch resort, but it can work.

All and all, remember that work is work and not loving every aspect of your job doesn't mean it's a bad job or that your coworkers are bad people. It means that your life is pretty darn normal.