One of life’s pleasures is to work with people you don’t like. Sometimes you might even get to work with someone you really, really don’t like. And now and again, you get to work with your arch nemesis. If you’re not in charge of hiring, you get whatever co-workers your supervisors choose. I don’t know about your work place, but I’ve seen a few hiring managers who make some pretty poor decisions.
Most companies try hard to hire people who are compatible and likable. Usually, it works just fine. But maybe you work somewhere the hiring process doesn’t even consider a person’s likeability. What are you supposed to do?
Find Middle Ground
First of all, check yourself. Are you doing anything to offend this person? Are you giving off any bad vibes? If you are, apologize for being less than lovely and try to do better. It may be you just got off to a wrong start with someone, and you can learn to get along with each other over time.
However, it’s usually the other person who’s the ogre. It’s one thing to be a co-worker to someone obnoxious and horrible―many times you can ignore that person and go about accomplishing what you need to do. But sometimes that person does nothing but get in your way. Sometimes he goes out of his way to make you look bad or make your day miserable. What do you do?
First, express your concerns to your supervisor, the person who’s supposed to provide you with a safe environment. Perhaps he can help calm your adversary or act as a mediator. Maybe he can even get the problem person transferred. While it’s hard to dismiss someone without cause—and being difficult to work with is not always a sufficient reason—if your nemesis is treating customers poorly or making the company suffer, there could be grounds for dismissal.
If your supervisor is unwilling or unable to get a little space between you and the person you loathe, you’ll have to handle the situation. Be frank and tell the person you may not get along, but you won’t allow it to interfere with your job. Ask him to also avoid letting personal conflict get in the way of the job. Sometimes a frank discussion will prevent him from getting in your space and interfering work flow. Most people can work with someone they dislike as long as everyone is focused on work and ignoring the personal interactions.
Getting Along With the Boss
It’s quite another thing when it’s your boss who’s the problem. This happened to me once. My original supervisor was replaced by one who was moody, self-centered and an unpleasant grouch. That was not much fun. I tried to have a discussion in which we might agree to disagree and put aside our personality conflict for the sake of the work. I didn’t get very far and ended up leaving the job.
But it may not be possible to leave a job just because you clash with the boss. In that case, you’ll have to make a deal, which might be: Your boss leaves you alone and refrains from stirring things up in return for you trying hard and doing good work. Sometimes an accord like this works; even a difficult boss can realize the value of a good employee. Just stay on guard ensure he doesn’t use you as a scapegoat for projects that go poorly, or as a sacrificial lamb if there’s a convenient need to blame someone.
Draw Up an Arrangement
It’s best to confront the person who’s making your work day difficult and briefly explain how you feel. Offer the simple solution of putting aside differences for the sake of the workplace. If you think you have an arrangement, be careful it’s kept. Some people who have miserable personalities are happy to give you the impression of making a deal, just to squash you later. So be on guard for payback or dissolution.
Finally, consider finding another place to work where obnoxious people have a hard time getting hired. I realize there aren’t a ton of jobs waiting to be filled. But if your choice is to stay with a co-worker or boss who’s impossible or leave, you may be better off leaving.
Just remember that if you did a little self-reflection and found you were not the problem, then you have nothing to feel guilty about. Life is too short to work with people who make you miserable. Instead, go out and find some people who are pleasant to work with. If nothing else, you’ll at least feel better about getting up in the morning.
Tron Jordheim is the director of PhoneSmart, an off-site sales force serving self-storage owners for 10 years. For more information, call 866.639.1715; visit www.phone-smart.info.