On Working With Someone You Don’t Like
I have a friend whose daughter seems to have all the positive traits for good employment. She is intelligent, good-looking and friendly. However, after graduating from a prestigious university with honors, she found it difficult to stay long at any job.
This puzzled her parents and whenever they asked her the reason, she says she could not stand the personality of either her boss or co-workers. At first, this seemed plausible. But after she went through four jobs in the span of two years, it became more likely that the problem is within herself.
The parents had a heart-to-heart talk with their daughter and pointed out the negative consequences of job hopping on her career. Fortunately, they were able to convince her to change her ways and she was able to get her career back on track. However, not everyone manages to correct this particular problem before the damage becomes permanent. If you are the type of personality who cannot stand working with people you don’t like, then read my suggestions below:
Refrain from aggravating the situation. You do not have to be friends with the person you do not like, but to get things done, you must at least be civil with each other. Do not openly show your contempt, as this would provoke a vicious cycle of retaliation. And even if you want to just blow off steam, do not go around bad mouthing the person for this will certainly be passed on to him/her through the office grapevine, and usually with embellishments that will further damage your working relationship.
Assess the reasons why you do not like the person. Perhaps the problem is with you. It may be that you dislike the person simply because he is different in some way that is not relevant to his work. I even know of one manager who hates people who are not up to her aesthetic standards, even if this does not matter to her work as a bookkeeper. Some of the common differences that may cause unwarranted ill-will are manner of dressing, speech and socio-economic status.
Find out the reason for the antagonism. If the problem is really not due to anything on your part, it is time then to search for other possible reasons. You could start by studying the differences between you and him. It may be one of this differences that is the root cause of the antagonism. If it can be resolved, then consider changing if this will not be against any of your principles.
Try to establish rapport with the person. Instead of focusing on his irritating behaviour, try to notice his positive traits. Giving honest compliments may be the ice breaker that you need. Another approach is to find things in common so that you can have better conversations. Maybe you came from the same school or province, or you share certain beliefs. Make an effort to be friendly and helpful. You have little to lose if you first try to get on his good side, if only to make your working relationship better.
Learn to accept criticism. If the person you do not like is your boss, then it is likely that you have been receiving plenty of criticisms. Try to ignore the manner of delivery. Some people are just sarcastic or think negatively by instinct. It is unlikely that you can do anything to change his approach until such time that you are already in very good terms with him that he will not take offense at your suggestions. Also, it may be possible that you are just too sensitive to criticism. Check first if indeed there is some truth to what your boss is saying.
Be on guard with people who are not trustworthy. There is world of a difference between people who are just unpleasant and those that are likely to intentionally cause harm through foul means. If you believe that your antagonist is capable of resorting to extreme and unethical measures to bring you down, then you must draw up a battle plan in order to endure. Secure all important documents. Make accountability clear and be careful of things that may be used against you. For example, in turning over any document or item to him, always have a detailed transmittal document that he must sign. In this case, only the paranoid will survive and you must be wary of any possible sabotage.
It is almost impossible to find a place to work where you do not have to tolerate someone who you do not like. Resigning from your job every time you encounter a disagreeable person is likely to result in eventual unemployment. Human resource personnel look at job-hoppers with a suspicion that they, and not the companies, are the problem. Learning to adapt better and being more tolerant of differences is usually the better strategy.
*Originally published by the Manila Bulletin. D-4, Sunday, September 15, 2013. Written by Ruben Anlacan, Jr. (President, BusinessCoach, Inc.) All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or copied without express written permission of the copyright holders.