How to work with people you DON’T like

Let’s face it. We’re not always going to like every co-worker, supplier, vendor, and so on. Sure, it’s human nature to try to work with people we like, and most of us if we’re in a position to do so, we tend to pick vendors and supplies, for example, that we like better, even at the cost of price, quality, delivery, and more. Over the years I’ve made a conscious decision to go with quality and trustworthiness first, because at the end of the day the best interest of my clients matters more than whether I like the people who print my manuals or host my mastermind groups.

How then, do we find a balance where we can work with people we don’t like, especially when we’re in a position where we don’t have much choice?

Now, I’m a man, and we men tend to be able to work with almost anyone. Part of this is because how we tend to communicate. Men’s communication tends to be a bit primitive, it centers around status, not unlike wolves in a pack. As long as we all know our spot in the pack, we can get along well enough to function. Women, on the other hand tend to communicate for connection. Thus when a woman doesn’t like who she’s working with, connecting seems just about impossible. However, there are plenty of men and women whose ‘communication personality’ is a mix of these two styles, so let’s explore a few simple ways to deal with folks you just don’t like.

  1. Get over yourself. Most of our judgments concerning people are entirely subjective. Sometimes we’re just plain wrong in how we’re viewing them. Even when we’re right, if we let our dislike for someone get in the way of what could otherwise be a productive and profitable relationship, we’re just being childish. Who cares if you don’t like him? Focus on getting results, not on whatever it is about the person you don’t like.
  2. Re-train your brain. Find a way to overlook the things you don’t like and find something to like. I once had to work with an event planner who I thought was insincere and selfish. I don’t like selfish people, and I despise insincere people. However, he was good at what he did, and I’m a big believer in loving people where they’re at, even if they get on my nerves, so I made a conscious decision to find something about him to like. He was a pretty snappy dresser, so I thought of him in terms of his fashion sense, and as a result we got along well enough that when it was my time to speak, he gave me probably the best introduction I’ve ever received. Had I not overcome my dislike, I might have done or said something to piss him off, and that intro might not have been quite so good.
  3. Don’t get too caught up with #2. I’m not saying you have to force yourself to like everyone. Sometimes the best approach is to focus on the work that is to be done.
  4. So, how do I focus on the work? The easiest way is to determine what the measurable results need to be. As the old saying goes, if it gets measured, it gets done. The next thing to do is to check your ego at the door. Sometimes, when we don’t like someone, even determining what needs to get done can turn into a tug of war. In some cases, I’ve even let the person I don’t like take the lead, supported their ideas (unless they were really THAT bad), and let them think they were the ‘alpha dog’ just so we could get the project done, get paid, and go home. Another way is to work virtually. With things like DropBox and other online means of collaboration, we can now to a great extent remove ourselves from the personal space of people we don’t like.

I try my best to work with people I like, but when that’s not possible, this simple approach has helped me to get along with people even when I really just wanted to tar and feather them, so give it a try.