Working with someone you do not like

BUSINESS MATTERS (BEYOND THE BOTTOM LINE) - Francis J. Kong (The Philippine Star) - May 15, 2021 - 12:00am

I remember telling a young man seeking marital advice: “In this country, you need to remember that you do not just marry the one you love, but you are marrying her entire family as well, so it would work best if you can get along with them and it will be difficult if you cannot.” We have heard it said that “you can choose your friends, but you cannot choose your relatives.” That is a fact, but at least you can choose to stay away from them if they do not live with you in the same house.

But what if the people you dislike happens to be your co-workers or your peers? You would not be able to stay away from them. Most of us have encountered this situation in our profession or career, and now that you and I are in a remote work environment, the case, if not addressed, can lead to severe problems.

Remote work limits the number of interactions you have with your peers. Not wanting to work with each other jeopardizes teamwork, withholds crucial information, leads to potential conflicts and disagreements, and these unwelcomed distractions can jeopardize the business. So what is the wise thing to do? You cannot hide from people you do not fancy. I am sure you want to do your work well, but you need to deal with this situation before you can succeed in what you do.

Here are some healthy ideas featured in the website info@nsacoop.org wherein author Carlos Valdes-Dapena, in his book Virtual Teams: Holding the Center When You Can’t Meet Face-to-Face, can help:1

1. Recognize that it’s your problem

“If I find you distasteful in some way, it’s because of judgments I’m making and reactions I’m having.” The author says, “You have to own that they’re your feelings. The foundation begins with personal responsibility.” He says “dislike” is different from “distrust.” Everybody can work with anybody as long as they are not engaged in unethical practices, crossing boundaries, or violating workplace rules.

2. Reframe your dislike

What causes the “dislike?” Perhaps “It’s a behavior they have, the way they speak, or how they deal with other people,” the idea is to manage your feelings, but first, you have to understand them. The author then offers an example: you may discover that your dislike is due to disgust, distaste, resentment, or jealousy. Dig into your emotional reaction so you can manage it better.

Valdes-Dapena admits he once had a co-worker he didn’t like, and he realized it was because she tended to boast. “Once I got underneath it, I realized that part of my feelings was jealousy because she had done some pretty impressive stuff,” he says. “I was raised to be modest. I was making her behavior about me. Instead, I had to reframe her behavior as quirky and off-putting, but not something I couldn’t work through. Reframing the dislike is the hardest part.”

3. Identify why it’s important to work with the person

To work together successfully, get clear on why working together is essential. For example, maybe you’ve been put on a high-profile project together. Or perhaps you want to be seen as a team player by your manager. Use the reason to craft a purpose statement, says Valdes-Dapena. It can help tie it to a mission statement or big picture idea to impact profoundly. “A purpose statement helps you build an alliance around a shared purpose,” he says. “It doesn’t mean you have to be friends. It helps you get back to the purpose of the collaboration so you can focus on doing the Work.”

4. Devise a plan to go forward

Share the purpose statement with the other person, and clear on your responsibilities and what you are doing together. Having a common cause can help you work together more efficiently. “Sit down and have a conversation and ask what the other person thinks.”

It can help share some vulnerability, such as admitting where you may be weak in a project. Chances are, the other person may talk about their shortcomings. “The conversation can humanize the other person and help you reframe your feelings,” he says. Any time you feel the dislike starting to come up, refer to your purpose statement.

Take a moment of self-reflection, and you may end up with a productive working relationship.”

Remote work will be with us maybe for a while or possibly on a more permanent basis. Good to learn the ideas from his book. Meanwhile, this confirms the age-old adage that says, “It’s amazing that when you change, others begin to change too.”



(Francis Kong’s highly acclaimed Level Up Leadership Master Class Online will have another run this May 17-19, 2021. Develop leadership skills that translate into personal, career, and business growth in the Current Reality and the Post-Covid World. For inquiries and reservations, contact April at +63928-559-1798 or and for more information, visit www.levelupleadership.ph)

1 How to Work with Someone You Can’t Stand. https://nsacoop.org/articles/work-someone-cant-stand

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