You tend to think of yourself as a likable person. You pride yourself on being pretty easy to work with. Your workdays are generally free of conflict and ruffled feathers, and you’ve even been complimented on your congeniality before.
So, imagine your surprise when it becomes obvious to you that the person in the next cubicle over seems to absolutely detest you. He sighs or rolls his eyes when it’s your turn to share your ideas. He appears agitated when you speak up in meetings. And when it’s just the two of you waiting for an elevator, he decides to walk down the stairs—all 14 flights. For all intents and purposes, he seems to be actively working against you.
Well, what’s going on? To your knowledge, you haven’t done anything to upset him. So, why has he made it his personal mission to make your working relationship as difficult as possible—and how can you make him your best friend?
You can’t. Yes, it’s human nature to want to be well-liked. But, we all know that an office where everybody gets along perfectly is a total fantasy. However, learning to work effectively with people—even when they aren’t your biggest fans—is crucial.
So, here are some steps you can put into play in order to deal with that co-worker who seems to hate your guts. Spoiler alert: They don’t include screaming or a dramatic confrontation.
1. Take a Step Back
When finding out that someone in your office doesn’t like you, your first inclination might be to obsess over your relationship until you get some answers. What does he or she have against you? Did you do something offensive? Everybody likes you—what’s her problem?
But, as tempting as that analysis might be, it’s best if you step back and take a deep breath rather than immediately springing into action. Of course, nobody can blame you for wanting to make sense of the situation. However, it’s important to realize that people’s feelings aren’t always logical. So, the reasoning behind this person’s distaste for you just might never make sense.
2. Accept It
Yes, it’d be great if absolutely everybody liked you. But, you already know that it’s just not realistic. Remember, even Mother Teresa had her fair share of negativity and criticism lodged against her.
So, the best thing you can do for your own sanity and professionalism is to just accept that this person will never be starting up a fan club in your honor. You’ll need to find ways to collaborate together on work projects without heated arguments and tons of uncomfortable tension. But, there’s no law stating that you need to be best buddies outside of the office.
The quicker you can come to terms with your co-worker’s dislike, the better off you’ll be. After all, your focus should be on producing great work—not on changing his or her mind about you.
3. Decide Your Course of Action
Next, it’s time to decide whether or not your office tension requires further action. Is it something you need to talk over? Or, is better off just being left alone?
If your co-worker’s distaste is limited to a few smug smirks and subtle eye rolls, you’re probably better off letting it go and moving on. Sometimes confronting your colleague can actually just feed the tension and lead to an even more strained relationship.
However, if your co-worker’s blatant dislike is impeding your ability to produce great work (or if she has a dartboard with your face on it), you might need to take action in order to clear the air. When you and your co-worker are alone, start with something simple like, “I sense some tension between us, and I want to make sure we can collaborate to do our best on this project. Is there something I’m doing that bothers you?”
Perhaps you really are doing something that rubs your co-worker the wrong way—and you weren’t even aware until it was pointed out to you. Or, maybe he or she is just impossible to win over. Either way, you’ll know you tried your best to defuse the situation on your own.
But, if your relationship reaches the point where it’s completely counterproductive, it might be time for you to call in some reinforcements and escalate the issue. If necessary, approach your manager in order to explain the problems you’re facing—as well as how these troubles are a hindrance on your performance. Then, the ball is out of your court and your supervisor can decide how to best handle the situation. Sometimes, you just can’t keep the problem between the two of you—no matter how hard you try.
4. Be the Bigger Person
Whether you decide to approach your co-worker or not, it’s obviously important that you always maintain the utmost professionalism—no matter how strong your desire to be passive aggressive is.
You can’t control everyone’s feelings or actions, but you can control how you react to them. So, take the high road and always treat this person with respect and integrity. Being the bigger person can definitely take some effort—particularly if your colleague is provoking you and making it extra difficult. But, no matter how challenging it is, it’s always the better option.
In an ideal world, everyone would adore you and jump with excitement at the chance to work with you. But, unfortunately, you know that’s not always the case.
Having to collaborate with people who’d rather not be around you is inevitable, so it’s important that you learn how to cope. Put these tips into action in order to stifle your tense relationship and still get your work done. You can save your exasperated eye rolls for after work.
Photo of serious woman courtesy of Shutterstock.
Kat is a Midwest-based freelance writer, covering topics related to careers, productivity, and the freelance life. In addition to The Muse, she's a contributor all over the web and dishes out research-backed advice for places like Atlassian, Trello, Toggl, Wrike, The Everygirl, FlexJobs, and more. She's also an Employment Advisor at a local college, and loves helping students prepare to thrive in careers (and lives!) they love. When she manages to escape from behind her computer screen, she's usually babying her two rescue mutts or continuing her search for the perfect taco. Say hi on Twitter @kat_boogaard or check out her website.More from this Author