10 ways to work with people you dislike

Working with a colleague you dislike is never fun. However, it’s important that you don’t let interpersonal problems get in the way of your professionalism. Lolly Daskal, leadership coach and author of The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness, offers 10 tips to ease the struggle of working with people you dislike

CREDIT: This is an edited version of an article which appeared on lollydaskal.com.

For productive and effective work, there’s nothing like collaboration with people you already like and respect—people you trust and know you can work well with. Eventually, though, it will almost certainly be necessary for you to work with someone you just don’t like. If you try to get out of it you only end up looking bad – that’s why learning to collaborate successfully with people you dislike is such a valuable skill.

Here are some starting points – try them out on your nemesis in small-scale situations so you’ll be prepared when you’re assigned to a major project together.

1. Start with acceptance
You don’t have to learn to like this person; all you have to do is get along and work well with them. Acknowledging that you clash with someone, without judgment, can help clear the strong emotions that often accompany challenging relationships.

2. Examine your own behaviour before you blame
In many cases we form a dislike for people because they remind us of parts of ourselves we dislike. Do some reflecting and, if you find this is the case, acknowledge and deal with it. Remind yourself that being triggered by another person isn’t cause to mistrust or despise them.

3. Manage your emotions
Dealing with someone who rubs you the wrong way can have a negative effect on your own emotions. A negative person, or know-it-all, can quickly wear you down—but only if you let them. Remember that you have power over your own emotions and that you don’t have to allow anyone else to influence your state of mind. Learn to manage your emotions – because the only person you can change is yourself.

4. Improve your communication
In order to be better at collaborating with anyone – but especially with people you dislike – you need to work to improve your communication skills. This means having more dialogues than monologues, more listening than speaking and more understanding then conflict. Work on your own communication challenges and you may inspire your difficult collaborator to do the same.

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5. Keep your head down
If you cannot improve the situation you have to learn to play it as well as you can. Forget about trying to have harmony and focus mainly on achieving the goals of the project.

6. Rise above
Never stoop to the level of those you dislike; don’t let their dysfunction change who you are. You don’t have to respond to the drama. Instead, rise above the circumstances, respectfully, quietly and without fanfare.

7. Keep it professional
Regardless of another person’s behaviour, always take the high road. Avoid making it personal, because this will only cause destructive behaviours. Try to make the best of things by concentrating on the situation, not the person.

8. Find common ground
There may be many things setting you apart but, if you work at it, you can find something to come together over with just about anyone. Concentrate on what you have in common more than your differences and you may find yourself disliking the person less.

9. Pick your battles
Not all things are worth your attention and focus. Sometimes dealing with a person you dislike can become so frustrating that you have to ask yourself, ‘Do they really deserve my time?’ If not, don’t waste your precious resources on someone who doesn’t deserve your energy or attention – be wise, and choose your battles carefully.

10. Cultivate a support system
Doing anything on your own can be difficult, so try to find people to support you. Trusted individuals can help you feel supported, and less alone. They can bring objectivity to a situation and help you to brainstorm ways to deal with a difficult person.

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