For productive and effective work, there’s nothing like collaboration with people you already like and respect—people you trust and know you can work well with. Eventually, though, it will likely fall upon you to work with someone you just don’t like. If you try to get out of it you only end up looking bad. That’s why learning to collaborate successfully with people you dislike is such a valuable skill.
Here are some starting points—try them out on your nemesis in small-scale situations so you’ll be prepared when you’re assigned to a major project together.
Start with acceptance. You don’t have to learn to like this person. All you have to do is get along and work well with them. Acknowledging that you clash with someone without judgment can help clear the strong emotions that often accompany challenging relationships.
Examine your own behavior before you blame. In many cases, we form a dislike for people because they remind us of parts of ourselves we dislike. Do some reflecting, and if you find this is the case, acknowledge and deal with it. Remind yourself that being triggered by another person isn’t cause to mistrust or despise them.
Manage your emotions. Dealing with someone who rubs you the wrong way can have a negative effect on your own emotions. A negative person or know-it-all can quickly wear you down—but only if you let them. Remember that you have power over your own emotions and that you don’t have to allow anyone else to influence your state of mind. Learn to manage your own emotions, because the only person you can change is yourself.
Improve your communication. To be better at collaborating with anyone—but especially with people you dislike—work to improve your communication skills. That means having more dialogues than monologues, more listening than speaking and more understanding then conflict. Work on your own communication challenges and you may inspire your difficult collaborator to do the same.
Keep your head down. If you cannot improve the situation, you have to learn to play it as well as you can. Forget about trying to have harmony and focus mainly on achieving the goals of the project.
Rise above. Never stoop to the level of those you dislike; don’t let their dysfunction change who you are. You don’t have to respond to the drama. Instead, rise above the circumstances, respectfully, quietly and without fanfare.
Keep it professional. Regardless of another person’s behavior, always take the high road. Avoid making it personal, because it will only cause destructive behaviors. Try to make the best of things by concentrating on the situation, not the person.
Find common ground. There may be many things setting you apart, but if you work at it you can find something to come together over with just about anyone. Concentrate on what you have in common more than your differences and you may find yourself disliking the person less.
Pick your battles. Not all things are worth your attention and focus. Sometimes dealing with a person you dislike can become so frustrating that you have to ask yourself, “Do they really deserve my time?” If not, don’t waste your precious resources on someone who doesn’t deserve your energy or attention. Be wise and choose your battles carefully.
Cultivate a support system. Doing anything on your own can be difficult, so try to find people to support you. Trusted individuals can help you feel supported and less alone. They can bring objectivity to the situation and help brainstorm ways to deal with a difficult person.
Lead from Within: Working with a colleague you dislike is never fun. However, it’s important that you never let interpersonal problems get in the way of your professionalism.
N A T I O N A L B E S T S E L L E R
The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness
After decades of coaching powerful executives around the world, Lolly Daskal has observed that leaders rise to their positions relying on a specific set of values and traits. But in time, every executive reaches a point when their performance suffers and failure persists. Very few understand why or how to prevent it.
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Photo Credit: iStock Photo
Of Lolly’s many awards and accolades, Lolly was designated a Top-50 Leadership and Management Expert by Inc. magazine. Huffington Post honored Lolly with the title of The Most Inspiring Woman in the World. Her writing has appeared in HBR, Inc.com, Fast Company (Ask The Expert), Huffington Post, and Psychology Today, and others. Her newest book, The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness has become a national bestseller.