What To Do If You Dislike Your Colleague

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There’s always someone who gets on you nerves. Whether it’s at school, college, uni, or even at home, you’re never going to sail through life loving every single person you meet. That’s silly talk. We hate to break it to you, but that’s gonna happen when you enter the big wide world of work.

So you’ve just started a new job and while you’re trying to get to grips with what you’re meant to be doing (!) and the person sat to your right really isn’t your cup of tea – what do you do? John McLachlan is a coach and trainer in the workplace (and author of this) and frequently trains leaders on how to deal with these sorts of personal issues. Using his expertise, he casts light on what young employees should do if they’re struggling to get on with a colleague.

1. ACCEPT THAT YOU DON’T HAVE TO LIKE EVERYONE

It’s not abnormal to dislike someone, and John told us to not have unrealistic expectations of ourselves and others, i.e. don’t go in thinking everyone is going to be your best friend because you’ll be disappointed. “You do not need to like everyone at work and they do not need to like you so go easy on yourself,” he said. “You have to be able to work with someone, not be their BFF, so focus on that.”

2. CONSIDER HOW MUCH YOU HAVE TO WORK TOGETHER

If you’re getting angtsy about hating a someone you’ll probably only ever have to talk to when you both head to the kitchen to make a cup of tea (and 99% of the time you’ll try to avoid this anyway), then seriously, what are you worrying about? “If the answer is not a lot then let it be and deal with them on a professional respectful way as and when you are in each other’s company,” adds John.

You don’t have to work with them, it’s rare you two will come into contact, so you’re better off reading something more useful like this instead.

3. WORK OUT WHAT YOU DISLIKE (HATE)

Scenario two: you do actually have to work with them, but before leaving it and getting increasingly irritated every time you come to work, John said it’s best to work out, specifically, what you don’t like about them. “Are they rude, loud, more confident than you or do they frighten you in some way? Once you know that think about why that is and if you need to, chat with friends (outside work, and who are good at listening) to work out what is going on for you.”

4. SEE HOW OTHER COLLEAGUES DEAL WITH THEM

Chances are, if your hate isn’t irrational, other members of your team might have similar feelings towards this colleague. A good trick John told us is to observe how your colleagues interact with this person, and how they deal with their annoying mannerisms. It’s called ‘data gathering’ and is a pretty fancy term of just watching people and conversations. No, you’re not a spy, but it means not making a fake effort to be nice, and not completely giving up on ever liking them altogether. “Take time to observe them, your reaction to them, others reaction to them etc. After that you may decide they are okay and you may not. Remember – you do not need to like everyone and they do not need to like you.”

Do others take a blunter approach? Are they more formal or informal? “You need to find out if your reaction is about you and the other person or if they are viewed the same by most people,” adds John. “If it is the same for most people, keep it professional and minimise the contact.”

5. FOCUS ON THE JOB AT HAND

The more you focus on something you hate, the more it annoys you. If all you’re thinking about when you walk into work is someone getting on your nerves, you need to reassess your own thought processes. You’re there to do a job. so try and focus your mind on what work you have to do that day or nailing that presentation. John told us that keeping it work-focused and professional is the most important thing: “Concentrate on what you are there to do and do it and keep chat and interaction to general pleasantries and what needs done.”

6. DON’T BE FAKE

… because you’ll end up being as bad as them. They’ll probably sense your two-faced nature and have a few things to say about you. Pretending to like them is not the way to go, John said, “but equally, do not let them behave badly towards you. Like dealing with a child, if their behaviour is unhelpful or not appropriate, deal with the behaviour and tell them what is acceptable and not acceptable to you.”

7. AVOID GOSSIPING WITH OTHERS

“I would suggest waiting some time before talking to others,” advised our expert. “Get data, observe and then decide what to do. Avoid getting into little “gangs” with other people who gossip and don’t like other people. It’s a waste of energy, takes your focus away from what you are there for and you never know who you are talking to.”

8. ASSESS HOW MUCH IT IS AFFECTING YOU

Disliking someone at work will probably go one of two ways: A) you accept you’ll never be friends and avoid them, keeping it professional, or B) it’ll start getting you down, affect your motivation, and make you dread going into work a little bit. That’s where the problem starts, according to John.

“If it is affecting your motivation you are making them more important in your life than they should be. Yes, you spend a lot of time at work and you want to enjoy it so focus on what you enjoy. The degree to which you can do this will, to some extent, depend on the person’s job role in the business and the behaviour they are exhibiting. If you simply don’t like them, then own that for yourself and focus on limited work interactions. If they are doing any form of bullying or abusive behaviour deal with it either directly with a “stop it” approach or if it is a boss or other relationship that you feel you can’t deal with yourself get HR involved and make sure they take it seriously.”

9. INTERACT WITH NICER WORK COLLEAGUES

The best thing to do? Focus on the people at work that you do like (we’re hoping you do like at least someone at work? Anyone?!). Spend your time with them in breaks or in the kitchen making tea. “At lunch and generally focus on them as your friends network and let the other people get on with their lives,” John explained. Have cocktails with the nice ones, and then you’ll be all ‘Ooh I work with the NICEST people ever!” on a Friday evening.

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