How To Get Along With A Work Colleague You Really Don’t Like

This article originally appeared in Huffington Post

If somebody at work rubs you up the wrong way, you need to look at your levels of reactivity.

We can’t expect to be lifelong friends with every person we work with. You might be stuck in an open plan office with a person who constantly criticises you. Or, perhaps, there’s a man who reminds you of that Year 8 maths teacher who made your life hell and you can’t bear being around him.

Or there’s a woman who gets on your nerves because she laughs at everything you say, even when you’re not trying to be funny.

It’s one of those sad facts of life that there will always be at least one person in the office you do not like and the feeling is likely to be mutual. So, is it a case of just putting up with it, or actually trying to keep the peace and get along? After all, you keep reminding yourself, somebody out there loves them. Why can’t you?

Dr Jenny Brockis, a medical practitioner and the founder of Brainfit told The Huffington Post Australia you need to ask yourself what it is about that person that rubs you up the wrong way.

“Is it the way they speak, or their attitude? Sometimes it can feel as if they must have gone to special annoyance classes. But have you noticed that while you’re dealing with your acute state of reactivity they can be completely oblivious to the fact? ” Dr Brockis said.

“Managing toxic people can be tricky. Much as you may long for the day they get transferred or leave the country, in the interim you’re stuck and if having to change your role or job isn’t an option then it’s going to be all about managing your level of reactivity. Choose to respond instead.”

How you see others at work is really a reflection of how you see the world in general.

When you’re in a social situation, Dr Brockis said your brain weighs up whether it’s safe to stick around because there might be something rewarding just around the corner, or whether it’s potentially dangerous.

“This was extremely useful to keep us safe during our evolutionary history, which is why the brain’s default setting is to assume ‘danger’ first and ask questions later,” Dr Brokis said.

“When it comes to managing office politics and workplace relationships, staying out of danger begins with recognising your triggers and developing those strategies to keep you safe.”

Rowdy McLean, international keynote speaker, business and leadership consultant told HuffPost Australia how you see others at work is really a reflection of how you see the world in general.

“If you believe people are dishonest, hard to get along with, cranky, unreasonable, bitter and twisted, there’s a good chance that’s how people will show up. If you believe people are doing the best they can, trying hard, making an effort and fairly easy to get along with, there is a pretty good chance they will be that way,” McLean said.

“If you find you really don’t like a lot of the people you work with, maybe check in with how you show up before you are critical of how they show up.”

“If there’s someone at work you really don’t like, you should never try to pretend that you do. False behavior is worse than not liking someone. You should make it clear that they are not your cup of tea and why and then agree to get the job done. If you let the personality clash affect your work, you both lose.”

If, at the end of the day, you decide you just don’t like ‘that’ person at work, there are really only two options. You can take the higher ground and just be a nice person and investigate whatever it is that might be nice about ‘that’ person.

“Let the rest of the office see them as the bad person in the scenario. Be the first to say hello, look for ways to engage with them; chances are this will not be the first or last time you have to do this, so learn to get good at it,” McLean said.

“Or get another job, remembering that the grass is not always greener and you might be taking the problem (you) with you. Another reason to not get caught in the tit for tat blame game of ‘he/she doesn’t like me so I am not going to talk to them’ is that you ultimately carry their baggage and we are all carrying way too much baggage of our own to be carrying someone else’s around.”

Dr Brockis’ Tips

  • Identify what pushes your buttons. What is it that you dislike about another person’s behaviour? Do you hate people being late? Remember these triggers are unique to you and you alone.
  • Decide whether the behaviour is worth responding to. Does their behaviour affect you directly or is it a conflict of values? Look for ways to reappraise the situation and reduce your level of irritation.
  • Keep things in perspective with early intervention. Bad behaviour and inappropriate comments are best dealt with when the matter is relatively minor. Suppressing emotion is the worst form of emotional regulation as it intensifies emotions (on both sides) putting you at risk of a volcanic eruption.
  • Keep your distance. The prefrontal cortex (PFC) is the part of the brain used for logic, reasoning, decision-making and regulating our emotional response.Taking a step back along with a deep breath provides you the space needed for a more measured response.
  • Seek commonality. We are all human. Finding some point of commonality whether through sport, kids or a shared interest in music can help break down barriers and enhance all of our working relationships.

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