How to handle co-workers who don’t like you or make it difficult to work with?
The topic of this blog post is sort of ‘on your face’. In other words, it doesn’t try to sugar coat the gist of what it wants to say and that’s the idea.
Often, you have supreme confidence on yourself and your own likability. You think everyone should like you and you easily dismiss the idea of anyone finding it difficult to work with you. Because you are that good. You pride yourself of the fact that you rarely or never have conflicts at work.
And then one day everything changes. You have a new co-worker. He or She is assigned an adjacent cubicle. And for some inexplicable reason, he/she just seems to absolutely detest you. He/She doesn’t hold punches when it comes to refuting or counterattacking your point of view in a meeting, or doesn’t hide his/her contempt when you present a new idea, etc. This colleague avoids you at all costs and you get the feeling that he/she may even be hatching a plan to work against you behind your back to get you out of there.
As far as you know, you haven’t done anything in particular that would have irked this colleague. You have no inkling as to why this colleague may be on what seems like a personal mission to go after you. Why does he/she hate you?
And more importantly, how can you make him/her your friend?
The answer is never simple, and it depends on many factors.
Yes, it’s human nature to want to be liked by all, to be precise, well-liked by all. A work environment where everybody gets along perfectly well with everybody else is an utopian office. Doesn’t exist. So, more often than not, learning to work effectively with colleagues, even when they aren’t your thickest fans or friends is crucial to productivity and overall success.
When you are in a hostile work situation like above, here are some tips/steps that you can incorporate in your day to day working mode, to see if they help make a difference. They are not necessarily an exhaustive list. But some sort of a guide.
Taking a Step Back
When you find out that someone in your office doesn’t like you, your first inclination might be to obsess over your relationship until you get some answers. What does he or she have against you? Did you do something offensive?
But, as tempting as that analysis might be, it’s best if you step back and take a deep breath rather than immediately springing into action. Remember, nobody can or will blame you for wanting to make sense of the situation. It’s also important to understand that people’s feelings aren’t always logical. If they are, then most conflicts of the world can be resolved logically, to create an ideal world. Can’t they be? So, remember that the reasoning behind this colleague’s negative vibes for you just may never make sense. It’s alright.
Accepting the Fact that There is Someone Who doesn’t Like You
It would of course be great to know that everyone liked you, forever. But that’s not realistic. Think of a most popular person from your local history or world history or from your contemporary crop of icons/heroes/people whom you respect. If you read their life stories, remember, you will realize that they all had their fair share of negativity and criticism lodged against them.
So the best thing you can do for your own sanity and professionalism is to just accept that this person will never be part of your best friends circle and won’t be starting up a fan club in your honor. It’s your responsibility to find ways to collaborate together on day to day work related tasks, without arguments and unnecessary and uncomfortable tension. On top of this, there is really no compulsion for the two of you to be friends outside the office.
The quicker you can come to terms with your co-worker’s dislike, the better off you’ll be. At the end of the day, your goal is your productivity and not earning his liking.
Deciding Your Behavior and Course of Actions
This is the most important phase. That’s to decide whether or not your office situation, aka the tension between the two of you requires further action. Is it something you need to talk over one on one? Or is it better left alone?
Figuring out what types of your colleague’s dislike behavior towards you should make you let go vs which warrants confrontation is tricky. If the dislike behavior includes simple acts like shrugs, making faces, smirks, etc., then may be letting go is not a bad option, because sometimes confronting a colleague could actually make it worse.
On the other hand, if your colleague’s behavior towards is you directly affecting your work, then you might need to take action, that is to speak with him/her in order to clear the air. Try to break the ice by having some simple conversations.
“Hey, xyz! I have been noticing that there is some negative tension between us and I want to understand if any of what I am doing is bothering you. I want to make sure we work together well for this project. Just let me know please..”
It is very much possible that what you are doing (unconsciously and without any harmful intent) may be bothering the colleague. If that’s the case, then clearing the air always helps.
In some cases, your one on one conversations or your attempts to let go off may not be enough. In those situations, you need to talk to your manager about this. Once you bring this to the attention of your manager, then effectively the ball has moved off your court to your manager’s court.
A couple of things to remember as you work through your workplace situation and come up with a plan:
1) You can’t control other’s feelings or actions, but you can control how you react to them. If possible, take the high road and always treat your colleague with respect and integrity. It’s not easy to do so. But if you can, it is a better option.
2) In an ideal world, everyone would adore you and jump with excitement at the prospect of working with you. That unfortunately is not always the case.
It’s unavoidable that there are times in all our careers that we get to work with people who would rather avoid working with us. So, it’s important that we all learn how to handle and cope with such situations, as the real goal for all, including the colleague who doesn’t want to work with you, is really to complete the task in hand successfully.
May be you can put these tips above into action, when you encounter a hostile work environment and focus on getting your work done.
Note: Please read ‘The Benjamin Franklin Effect’, a very interesting and surprising psychology to handle haters (not just workplace, but in general).