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How to Work with People you Don’t Like

Do you like your co-workers? Odds are, there are some people you work with whom you like and some whom you don’t like. There might even be a few people you work with that you REALLY don’t like. Just like any other part of life.

But unlike the rest of life, there’s no way to avoid the people you work with, whether you like them or not, at least not without serious consequences. It’s unprofessional and unwise to freeze a colleague out or to just ignore them. You have to find a way to interact with all of the people you work with. More than that, you have to find a way to work productively with them despite your personal feelings, and you have to make sure your feelings aren’t obvious. Because if you don’t, you risk disrupting your team, interfering with the productivity of others, or even putting your own job at risk.

Everyone has a co-worker that they don’t like, but unless they’re actually doing something that goes against the company code of conduct or they are actively hostile to you, you’ll need to find a way to work with them. Here are a few tips to make that easier.

Clear the Air

Consider the roots of your negative feelings for your co-worker. Did it start with a difference of opinion or maybe an unintentional insult? If that’s the case, clear the air. Meet with your co-worker face-to-face on neutral ground, perhaps over lunch, and talk it out. This is probably going to be uncomfortable and may actually be distasteful. But by making an effort, you show that you are a professional and you are intelligent enough to not allow your personal feelings to get in the way of your professional life.

Learn to Appreciate Your Colleague

Everybody has skills and talents, including that co-worker you don’t like. They were hired into their position for a reason, and even if you’re not crazy about them personally, they probably do an adequate job. Maybe they even do an outstanding job

So, take a moment to look objectively at that co-worker that you don’t like. Try to look past the fact that they never clean the microwave or that they respond to your emails IN ALL CAPS. Don’t focus on what bothers you, focus on what your co-worker does well and try to appreciate it.

Look at your Own Behavior

There are two sides to every conflict, and no one is perfect. So, when you find yourself working with someone you don’t like, take a deep breath, and consider the possibility that maybe you’re doing something that your co-worker finds annoying or difficult to accept. Looking at your behavior from someone else’s perspective can improve your performance, regardless of how you feel about your co-workers.

Don’t Complain and Don’t Gossip

One of the worst things you can do at a job is to complain about your co-workers or gossip about them. This type of negative behavior can lead to or add to, a toxic work environment. And worse, it will make you look bad. Your other co-workers, the people you like or at least feel neutral towards you, will notice your attitude and pay attention to your words, and they will judge you for it. Remember that old saying, “Keep your words sweet, because someday you may have to eat them.” Being too pleasant and too professional never hurt anyone’s job.

When Should you Go to HR?

All of this advice is meant for a normal interpersonal conflict. If you feel that your co-worker is bullying you, harassing you, or threatening you in any way, seek help. You don’t have to like everyone you work with, but you don't have to put up with abuse.

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