Working with Someone you Cannot Stand

Written by: Penny Anthem Staff
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Depending on the nature of your career, most people will find themselves having to deal with someone they cannot stand at one point or another. In any given setting there are bound to be people we respect, work well with, and of course…strongly dislike.

Sometimes working with someone you cannot stand might be necessary. Ideally that person and yourself will go on separate paths (hopefully sooner rather than later), but until then it’s best to learn to manage your discomfort.

If you let them get the better of you, it can potentially hinder your mood, day, and overall performance. Managing interactions and your reactions is about self preservation and doing your job to the best of your ability.

Here are some tips on how to deal with someone you cannot stand. 

Avoid them as much as possible: Obviously the less you have to deal with this individual the better. While you may not be able to avoid them as often as you wish, focus on the moments you can control. Don’t engage them in unnecessary conversation, don’t feel you need to sit next to them during meetings or lunch. Tune that person out as much as possible.

Stay positive: Being forced to work with someone you don’t like can take a toll on your mental health. It’s easy to get caught up in their negative energy. Don’t sulk around thinking of all the ways that person is awful. Instead focus on lifting your own mood to become a positive light for yourself and others around you.

Write a list of positive ways they contribute: It’s hard to recognize positive aspects about someone we don’t see eye to eye with, but chances are there is at least ONE thing about them that has a positive influence. When they are really getting under your skin remind yourself of whatever it is that you do like about them. Maybe they really excel at customer service. Remind yourself of the positive ways they contribute.

Avoid gossip: Talking poorly about this person isn’t going to solve anything, EVEN if other people agree. You don’t want to get caught up in petty drama; remember you are trying to rise above this senselessness. Do your job well, be positive, and people will think highly of you. You don’t need to tear anyone else down.

Remember that people can like BOTH you and this other person. Your value doesn’t change based on someone else’s. Similarly getting other’s to see your perspective doesn’t benefit anyone. Let people decide for themselves but staying out of drama and remaining professional.

Stay respectful: Avoid petty quips, rolling your eyes, and passive aggressive gestures. Being disrespectful adds fuel to the fire. We’re trying to put the fire out. any easy way to do this is to try to limit all your reactions/engagements with this person. If someone say’s something rude to you, I have often found it best to just hand them their own energy back. Keep your reaction limited and remove yourself from the situation.

Learn their language: This is absolutely the most difficult. If you see your position and collaboration with this person as necessary for your career, you will make your life a whole lot easier if you try to learn to truly work with them.

Keep in mind that this is very long term solution. It won’t fix the situation over night, but learn what makes them tick. What do they need from you in order to give you what you need.

This may take you swallowing some pride. But in the end people can be pretty predictable. Maybe your coworker responds really well to feeling like they have power. So give them the illusion of power! I’m not suggesting feeding into anything unhealthy, but sometimes very simple/ small adjustments make a huge difference.

By ‘learning their language’ you are really putting yourself in someone else’s shoes.

Look at the bigger picture: How often do you have to interact with this person? Is this position a stepping stone to something better? What are the pros and cons of dealing with this person? Are they as bad as you think they are?

If the cons far outweigh the pros then think of more impactful solutions. Can you switch locations? Is this person creating issues that are more harmful than simple annoyances? Consider getting support from either a manager or HR if necessary.

If they annoy you, but it’s bearable or temporary, focus on the short term solutions mention above.

Widen your net: You when you make up your mind to dislike someone…it’s like everything they do bothers you. This is because you’re too focused on that person. Aside from avoiding them and staying positive, add more fulfilling aspect to your life.

Whether that’s being social with other coworkers, joining a group outside of work, joining the gym, or reading a new book every month- indulging in new interests and relationship can provide perspective. Life can be long, fun, and beautiful. Fill your life with things other than dwelling on how much that one person bother your.

Be diplomatic: Many situations warrant a conversation. Upfront and honest communication can be hard when dealing with someone who is difficult. When faced with a situation in which you want to be open and honest about your discomfort or expectations- work to choose your timing and words wisely.

Often times the person we cannot stand may not even realize they are being difficult. Backing them into a corner isn’t going to get you where you want to be. Find a way to listen before you speak your mind.



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