Working with people we dislike can be a challenge, so here are some things to consider.
Just as we don’t get to choose our families, we very often don’t get to choose our co-workers.
Fortunately, most of the time we like our work colleagues, who may even become lifelong friends. Occasionally, however, we’re thrown into close daily contact with people we just cannot abide. Maybe we don’t agree with them politically, or we find them self-serving or egotistical, or we can’t stand how they are always late (or early!) to work.
What’s even worse is that the people we don’t like eventually realize it, leading them to not like us either, thereby doubling our problem.
OK. Time for a deep breath and to consider a few things.
First, keep in mind that working with people we like also has its downside — we may be hesitant to critique their performance, say, or we may find ourselves covering up for their errors. Indeed, people who don’t share our bond of friendship are often the most valuable contributors because they aren’t as hesitant to identify problems. So the key here is to treat everyone with civility and common sense.
Second, sometimes the reason people rub us the wrong way is that they have negative traits in common with us. In other words, that person reminds us of what we don’t like about ourselves. This can be a good thing because it can lead us to (a) engage in some self-improvement, and/or (b) develop greater compassion for our own failings as well as those of others.
Third, another possibility is that the person reminds us not of ourselves but of someone from our past who hurt us, treated us unfairly or let us down in some major way. Just knowing that the reason we can’t stand someone is because he reminds us of our ex or a cruel grade-school teacher makes it easier to cope.
Finally, remember that not liking a person is not abnormal. Nor is it something to overly stress out about. The truth is, you’re not going to like everyone in this world, and not everyone is going to like you. So don’t beat yourself up. Instead, focus on the job at hand, treat others as you would want to be treated, and spend as much time as possible with the people you do enjoy.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use and of the novel “The Paris Effect.” Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.