PRAISE, a seasoned journalist says: “Jeff was a writer like me, and the head of a public relations agency. As far as I knew, he was professional, honest, and had a popular following. Someone we both knew asked us to collaborate on a project which was clearly beneficial to me and Jeff.”
It all sounds great except for one thing: She did not like Jeff.
“Something about him rubbed me the wrong way. He seemed too self-serving or self-satisfied. I don’t know what it was exactly, but I know I didn’t like him.”
Praise went ahead and mentioned this to the person who wanted her and Jeff to work together.
“She told me to get over it,” Praise says, “and that I did not have to like him to work with him.”
So how do you work with someone you don’t like?
And not simply someone who frustrates you because they communicate poorly or can’t chair that staff meeting. Of course, it is annoying to have your time wasted, especially when you believe you could do a better job. But that’s different from disliking them.
Most people face with this problem simply cut all communication with the enemy. They just transact whatever business they need to with them and move on. What is otherwise termed ‘grinning and bearing it.
But according to Marie Paule Umuhoza, a human resource and media personnel at the American Refugee Council (ARC), that is costly to do. “The people we don’t like drive us crazy and we waste a lot of our working time complaining about them, or stressing about a conversation we need to have with them,” she says, adding, “at the end of the day, it is your working performance that is affected.”
And that’s not the worst part of it. The real problem is that if you don’t like someone, chances are they know it. Umuhoza says: “If you think working with someone you don’t like is hard, try working with someone who doesn’t like you.”
She adds that “the people you get along with will find ways to help you; the people you don’t get along with will find ways to obstruct you, and you cannot just wish it away.”
Being liked has many benefits: the more people like you, the easier, more productive, and more profitable your life is likely to be. This means that anyone you don’t get along with at work poses a risk to your work performance.
So, what’s one to do under such circumstances?
Umuhoza advises that it is better to consider the reasons you don’t like someone first. “Maybe you think they are greedy, selfish or dismissive. In other words, they have some disagreeable trait that bothers you. Now, examine your won heart for traces of these disagreeable traits in your own self,” she challenges. Can you be greedy, selfish, dismissive or downright mean yourself? The answer is probably a yes. If so, ask yourself if you really like that part of yourself.”
“Chances are,” she goes on, “that the reason you can’t stand that person is that they remind you of what you can’t stand about yourself.”
She says that working with people you don’t get along with can become interesting if you take your time to get to know them better, and accepting the parts of them you don’t like. “It is actually a way of getting to know your own self better and accepting the parts of yourself you don’t like. The way to overcome your dislike of someone else is to overcome your dislike of yourself first.
That’s where the person you don’t like can come in handy. Use them to understand yourself better. Consider why you have a problem with him or her. What does she/he do that bothers you so much? Move past their inability to run meetings or write a good email and get to the core of what is stressing you.
Think about times when you feel greedy or selfish or dismissive or downright mean. Can you see it? Can you admit to yourself that it’s not to the good of others? Can you live with the complexity of your own humanness? That’s the key to being compassionate with yourself.
And being compassionate with yourself is the key to being compassionate with others.