With all the people that we are connected to, it is inevitable that we will encounter a few that we are not fond of. The reasons may be blatant, but they also may be subconscious. However, if we can uncover and acknowledge some of these reasons, we have a greater chance of resolving the issue, which means improved relationships, culture, and productivity.
No one needs unhealthy relationships in the workplace.
Unhealthy relationships can lead to frustration, irritation, and a decrease in overall quality of work. Ultimately, unhealthy relationships can lead to negative conflict. The result is wasted energy, time, and money.
More alike than different
What really bugs you about this person? Is it one personality trait? Sometimes the very thing that we don’t like in another person, is the same (or similar) trait that we have in ourselves – we are just blind to seeing the similarity.
Perhaps you have a supplier who constantly interrupts you as you give instructions. After a while, frustration may result, and you wonder why their communication skills are so poor.
On the other hand, your supplier may be getting irritated with you because you talk non-stop. He feels that if he doesn’t break the conversation, he won’t be able to ask for any clarification. He wonders how someone could get so far with such poor communication skills.
Lesson: Look internally to see if an irritating personality trait is actually a reflection of your own unfavourable behaviour. Once there is acknowledgement, you will be less bothered by the other person, and you have an opportunity for personal development.
Blast from the past
Have you ever met someone, and right away you felt that the “chemistry” was missing?
Instead of “chemistry” it could be that the person simply reminds you of a person from your distant past.
Lesson: Push the “chemistry” argument aside, and get to know the actual person. It isn’t fair for someone in your “present” to be fighting invisible baggage from the “past”. Strike up an authentic conversation, and find some common ground. Your relationships at work can only improve.
The “I wish” syndrome
The “I wish” syndrome (or jealousy), can become very toxic:
- “I wish I had the traits that she has.”
- “I wish I still had the abilities that he has.”
- “I wish I had the accomplishments that he has.”
- “I wish I had the money that she has.”
I must admit that I’m not really the jealous type. I tend to get inspired by people who have abilities that I don’t have. However, I have seen how crippling the “I wish” syndrome can be.
Lesson: There will always be people with more, and there will always be people with less. Learn from the ones who have traits that you aspire to, and mentor those who are open to learning. If you are able to change your perspective, the “green-eyed-monster” should disappear, and your feelings about the person will improve.
It’s just not fair!
- Your leader didn’t give you the promotion?
- A colleague criticized your ideas?
- Your reward for submitting great work is more work, and longer hours?
Lesson: Life can’t always go the way we want it to. When we feel that things are “not fair” we are attributing the situation to someone purposely making our life miserable. Although it is possible, it’s highly unlikely.
Instead, empower yourself and take control of the things you can take control of – ask questions, learn and grow, and be assertive without animosity. Taking action in this way can assist in diminishing the negative feelings towards the situation, and can help to repair relationships.
We don’t like what we don’t understand
Is the person ego-centric, authoritarian, socially awkward, and/or obnoxious? Do they eat loud crunchy food during meetings, and/or show too many cat/dog/kid pictures?
I admit I have a hard time understanding people with an authoritarian style of leadership. I once had a leader that grumbled a lot, barked orders, and rarely made eye-contact with staff members.
It certainly bothered me at first, and then I tried to have an open mind. I found that compassion was a way to help dissolve my negative feelings I had towards the person.
- Is this the only style of management they have ever known?
- Perhaps they have problems dealing with pressure?
- Could there be personal reasons?
The actual answer was that the person was battling cancer, and didn’t let anyone know.
Lesson: It is impossible to like every style of leadership out there. But, you can choose to not take it all personally. Instead, work hard, push yourself for excellence, and try to be compassionate. A person may be dealing with something that is far greater than you will ever know. It may be difficult at times, but accepting that you can’t understand everything about another person will ultimately give you some peace.
Nothing in common
If you don’t like someone because you think that there is nothing in common, you just haven’t looked hard enough. Get to know the person. Ask the person out to lunch, a walk, or a coffee after work.
Finding common ground will improve your working relationship. Your differences will promote new ways of thinking about projects, and your similarities will make collaboration less awkward, and more enjoyable.
Lesson: We must make choices to connect authentically, and personally with each other. If we connect in this way, we will have more personal satisfaction, and we will be more likely to be committed to our colleagues and company.
“Wherever you go, you take yourself with you,” – Neil Gaiman
The biggest take-away, is to remember that the reason you don’t like someone could be more about YOU than it is about THEM. It’s a difficult message, and I’m still working on it.
Similar to Gaiman’s quote, if we take ourselves wherever we go, then we take our problems with us. If you choose to leave a position or a company because you don’t like the person you work with, chances are you will find the same problems at your next location. Might as well work on them now.
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