Even if you get along with almost everyone, chances are, you may have a coworker you don’t like so much. It’s a problem that most of us run into at some point. Whatever the reason is, you just don’t mesh with this person, and that can make your job more difficult.
That said, clashing personalities don’t always have to hurt your work experience. So, how can you connect with a coworker who isn’t your cup of tea?
How to connect with a coworker you don’t like
The way to cope with the situation will vary based on why you don’t like your coworker and other factors, such as how closely you work with them. However, there are a number of different things you can do. Here are some tips to consider.
1. Keep it professional (and don’t gossip).
First and foremost, you want to keep it professional. Don’t gossip about the coworker you don’t like to other coworkers. Even if other employees gossip about the person, it’s best not to gang up.
Remember, you don’t know what this person could be going through. Furthermore, gossip is likely to make things messy, and it could reflect on you negatively in the workplace. At best, it won’t solve your problem.
If the concern is a serious one rather than a simple dislike or personality difference, you may feel you just have to say something. If that’s the case, it would be best to talk privately with HR or a supervisor.
2. Reflect on why you don’t like them.
When you identify why you don’t like your coworker, it can help you understand how to navigate the situation. Maybe…
You could dislike them…
- Because of jealousy,
- Because of their workplace habits,
- Because they’re controlling and overbearing,
- Because your personalities clash,
- Because they talk down to or bully you,
- Because of some other reason,
- Or just because!
These are all very different circumstances, which can inform the route you take to address the issue. Ask yourself two questions. First, is this issue a problem for the company or business at large? Second, is the other person violating your rights in the workplace? Bullying could be an example of violating your rights. In either of these situations, you might consider having a private conversation with your supervisor or HR.
But on the other hand, sometimes the best path forward is reflection. What can your discomfort with this person tell you about yourself?
Maybe something about them reminds you of someone you didn’t like in your past. This could be an opportunity for you to practice separating a person from their behavior. If you feel jealousy around them, where might your self-worth need a boost? If you can’t tell why you don’t like them, consider what old wounds this person might be opening back up.
In these scenarios, after personal reflection, genuine connection could still be possible.
3. Learn more about them.
If you feel comfortable doing so, you might try to learn more about this person in a way that feels natural to you. Ask questions and look for common ground as you would with other colleagues. As you get to know them better, in some cases, you will uncover positives that can outweigh the negatives.
Maybe you don’t like them because they seem unfriendly. After talking more, you could find out that they just don’t open up easily, but are extremely kind.
Or, maybe you don’t like them because of their tone in emails. If you get to know them better, you might come to see that their email style doesn’t reflect them well as a person.
Note that this option doesn’t apply to cruelty or blatant disrespect, which is best dealt with in partnership with a supervisor.
4. Take your own thoughts and actions into account.
Again, self-reflection can be key in some contexts. If there is a way that you may have mistreated this person, make an effort to mitigate it–or even just acknowledge it. Sometimes a lack of acknowledgment is worse than the mistake itself.
If you haven’t done anything to cause a rift with this coworker, but just don’t like them, consider the possibility that you may have placed unfair or undue judgment on this person. Maybe they’re trying their best and not really hurting anyone, but you overlooked those signs. It can happen to the best of us.
5. Know that it’s okay to keep it short and sweet.
Sometimes, we want to like and be liked by everyone, but that’s not always necessarily within our control.
Say that you’ve either tried to build a connection to no avail–or, you just don’t feel like you can get past your dislike for them. This doesn’t mean that you have to be cold. Be kind to the coworker, but know that, again, you don’t have to be best friends.
Consider the following “bare minimum” gestures, which apply to coworkers you like and don’t like…
- Giving positive feedback on their work or congratulations where appropriate.
- Sending a note on their birthday.
- Refraining from personal follow-up questions that will get you into a conversation you’re not psyched about.
- Sending cute pictures or videos that don’t require much of a response and are hard to misconstrue.
If serious, discuss your concerns with HR or your supervisor.
If you just don’t like the other person, this isn’t your best option. But what if the issue is indeed something more serious? We talked a little bit about situations where you may want to speak with a supervisor, but how exactly do you go about it?
If the coworker in question is cruel to you or makes an active effort to disrupt your work, bring your concerns up with the correct authority figure. That could be your boss or an HR professional.
Your goal isn’t to get the coworker in trouble; it’s to relieve yourself from anything that disrupts your ability to do your job. Keep your description focused on how the coworker makes you feel, and how that impacts your work. Some of the phrases in this critical feedback worksheet may help frame what you say.
You may not have the authority to decide on a solution, but go into the discussion with an idea or two. The solution might be a schedule change where you don’t have to work with that person anymore, or maybe just an arrangement where you can take 5 minutes to vent privately every once in a while.
Reducing the stress of coworker conflict
If there’s a coworker you don’t like, it can cause or contribute to burnout, an already pervasive issue among many workers. Here are some ways to mitigate this stress and otherwise preserve your experience in the workplace:
- Connect with other coworkers. While you should not single out or gossip about the coworker you don’t get along with, your work experience may improve by focusing your connection elsewhere.
- Leave work at work. Especially if a coworker makes you feel less relaxed in the workplace, it’s important to leave that conflict at work when you go home. Make the most of your recharge time, so that this person doesn’t impact both your work and home life.
- Maintain self-care routines. Focus on your own wellbeing rather than allowing this person to disrupt your day. Use positive self-talk, engage in sleep hygiene practices, and use other helpful routines or skills that are unique to you. Make room in your life for the things you like to do, and take time to care for your all-around physical and mental health.
It’s also important to make sure you have a support system outside of work. Whether that means that you come to friends, family, a support group, a therapist, or someone else, social support matters.
Consider venting (productively) in a safe space
Whether it’s about a difficult coworker or something else, it’s essential and often restorative to have a place where you can talk candidly.
Sometimes, we need a place to vent, and other times, we need a non-judgmental space to work toward realistic solutions that we can apply to our lives. Peer support can help. Supportiv is a peer support network that is cost-effective and available 24/7, so it’s easy to access. You can always come chat when you need it.