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Problems at work. Upset millennial man massaging his nose bridge and looking at computer screen, holding glasses in hand, free space
ATD Blog

Working With Someone You Just Can’t Stand

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Some of us get along with everyone we meet. But as ideal as that would be, most of us have had to work with people we don’t prefer, don’t like, or just plain can’t stand. Try as you might, it seems you just don’t get along and you’d rather go to the dentist than be in a meeting with him.

So, what do you do? Do you have a conversation with him about it or just let it go? It’s a tough situation, but there are some possible solutions I’ve learned through the Crucial Conversations book and course that have helped me and might challenge some of your assumptions if you’re in this situation.

Change Your View

If you enjoy your work and are happy with it aside from your interactions with this person, it might be best to change your view of him, even just a little. Let me ask you: has anyone ever given you feedback that you were narrowminded or strong-willed or too wedded to your opinions? Think hard. Maybe a friend, a spouse, a neighbor, a family member. The truth is that the person you are describing is ALL of us, at least sometimes. And he’s some of us ALL the time.

Change Yourself

What are some things you can do to model the behaviors you want to see in this coworker? Are you doing anything to enable the behaviors you despise? We often don’t see how we are contributing to our own pain.

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Change the Person

I don’t really mean “change” him, but influence him with dialogue. You might say something like this: “Hey, Gary. I wanted to chat with you about something that’s getting in the way of us working well together. And that’s important to me. There’s a pattern that looks like this: you and I disagree. I share my opinion. You cut me off with your opinion. You don’t ask me questions about what I think but continue to advocate your side. For example, in the last four budget meetings, you haven’t changed your stance once from your initial position. This comes off like you’re not open to other views. What are your thoughts on these situations?”

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Change Your Situation

Maybe you should consider working somewhere else (or with different people in your organization). I don’t mean to be insensitive, but depending on the degree of frustration you’re feeling, it’s helpful to know this is an option. I’m not saying it’s easy or that you should do it, but that you should try to keep the most proactive attitude you can. If you don’t like the situation and can’t change it, maybe it’s time to leave it.

Gossip and Stew

This is the option that most people choose. They endlessly complain about this frustrating coworker. They make subtle, but sarcastic comments in meetings. They stew in silence. They vent to the boss. And on and on. It’s an option!

I’ve come to the conclusion that we all have to interact with people in our lives who annoy us. For some of us it’s coworkers, others it’s a neighbor, and for some it’s family. Either way, be honest about your options. Don’t paint yourself as a victim, because that just leaves you stuck in the same place. Consider your options and decide your next actions. Nothing is more annoying than staying in the same situation (that you hate) forever.

1 Comment
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Thanks for your insights. We all worked with people who challenge our patience, "push our buttons" or just rub us the wrong way. With those people, I just learned to accept our differences and challenged myself to keep in mind the shared goal we have in working together. I remind myself that everything is temporary. I agree we shouldn't paint ourselves as victims. Sometimes right before an encounter with them, I just take a deep breath and keep in mind the points above. Thanks for sharing.
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