Ways to Collaborate With People You Really Don't Like

John Krautzel
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One bad work relationship shouldn't send you fleeing from a great job. Even if it isn't spelled out explicitly in your job description, getting along with people is necessary to do well in any environment. Working with someone you don't like challenges you to be open-minded and considerate, and you develop stronger interpersonal skills in the process. Instead of making an enemy out of your co-worker, use constructive methods to navigate workplace conflict.

Identify the Source of Conflict

Work relationships don't have to be perfect, but they should be productive. It's your responsibility to manage your emotions and avoid inflammatory behavior that spreads tension. Try to remember the first moment you formed negative feelings about your co-worker. Was there a specific incident? Did something about the other person simply rub you the wrong way?

Hostility toward a colleague is often one-sided. Your co-workers might not have any clue that they made a poor impression on you. Looking back, you might realize the initial encounter wasn't as bad as it seemed. When you react without thinking, you're more likely to exaggerate a problem and set off a pattern of toxic behavior.

Look Inward, Not Outward

Reflect on how your actions and assumptions contributed to a stressful work relationship, especially if you can't nail down an exact reason why you dislike someone. Having an unexplained aversion to a co-worker is usually a sign of personal insecurity or bias. Does your co-worker have talents or character traits that make you feel inadequate? Does the person come from an unfamiliar background? Be honest about your role in a workplace conflict, so you can get better at interacting with diverse teams.

Embrace Other Perspectives

Creative friction is a normal part of work relationships. Take advantage of the opportunity to learn from people who are different from you. Co-workers don't have to agree on everything to get along, and you produce better ideas when you approach problems from many angles. If you repeatedly clash with a colleague, do your best to consider the other person's perspective. You probably have similar goals and motivations, but it's difficult to find common ground when you rely on assumptions.

Show Interest in Others

Ask questions to understand your co-worker's thought process. By showing your willingness to listen, you can overcome tense situations and develop positive work relationships. Invite co-workers to get to know you better, and make an effort to learn more about them as well. Showing interest in your peers helps to build rapport, making it easier to see the best in your co-workers.

You should also consider how your behavior comes across to everyone else. You might think of yourself as a cooperative team player, while others see you as tight-lipped and indecisive. In many cases, you can quell a misunderstanding by offering context for your point of view. For example: "I'm happy to have your input on this project. I can be a little reserved when collaborating with new people, so let me know if I'm not speaking up enough."

Dealing with conflict takes you out of your comfort zone. However, the ability to solve problems prepares you for leadership, making you a valuable employee. Have you ever struggled to collaborate with a co-worker? What steps do you recommend to repair a tense work relationship?

Photo courtesy of nenetus at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


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  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Mary O thanks for your comment. So sorry you have to try to work under circumstances like that. But, if you can hang in, things usually work out in the end. A self-absorbed person doesn't usually hang around for long when no one is paying attention to them.

  • MARY O.
    MARY O.

    It is hard to create a positive working relationship with someone who is totally self-centered. THEY are not interested in communication, team building, SUCCESS of the company they are working for, in fact the company they are working for made a MISTAKE in hiring them, a MISTAKE that co-workers have to pay for in spades.

  • Vee H.
    Vee H.

    I agree with, One bad work relationship shouldn't send you fleeing from a great job. Even if it isn't spelled out explicitly in your job description,...

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