Work would be totally awesome if you could always work with people that you like. These are the people who you not only respect in the workplace but are happy to socialize with outside of work, too. Wouldn't that be a dream come true?
Well, maybe, and maybe not. Some people like to keep a complete separation between their work and their social life, others are comfortable inviting their coworkers to share their social time. But everyone wants to have a nice place to go to work. A nice place to work is defined by the people working there and the workplace practices and environment.
Unfortunately, you can't always pick the people with whom you work. So sometimes you get stuck working with a coworker you not only don't click with but who is a person whom you actively dislike, or even think you hate.
How do you survive this situation? (Sure, you can always get a new job and quit, but it's silly to give up a job that you like in an organization that is otherwise good because of one colleague you dislike or are learning to hate.) So, what can you do instead of quitting?
Here are six tips for getting along with even the most annoying people you dislike.
Document the Disliked Coworker's Bad Behavior
Mia used to work with a woman that she couldn't stand. At first, she thought it was just her own pettiness. She was pretty and smart and rapidly climbing the company ladder. Was she just jealous? Mia convinced herself that that was the case—she didn't like her because she was just petty and jealous.
Now, that is a reason to cause you to dislike a coworker, but in this case, it turns out that it wasn't the real reason. When she lied to a senior person in another department about work Mia had done, she realized that her coworker was simply a horrible person.
At that point, she was able to see that she wasn't the only person the coworker had happily sacrificed to make herself look better. Once Mia learned this about her, she understood that her unconscious mind had picked up on the coworker's sleazy character before she could see it clearly in action.
But, Mia still had to work with her. They were peers, so she had no hire/firepower over the coworker. Mia otherwise loved her job and wanted to stay in it. So, she actively changed her interactions with the coworker. Knowing that she had no trouble lying about any conversations, Mia stopped speaking to her face to face and communicated via email so that every interaction was documented.
While the supposed colleague remained a rotten person, she never did anything overtly to hinder Mia's career again. She knew she wasn't going to get away with that behavior again.
Identify Whether You're Actually the Problem
Sometimes the reason you don't like a coworker is that the person has the same bad habits that you do. When they reflect back at you, you don't like it. Sometimes, you dislike a coworker because that person is always criticizing you or telling you what to do.
Ask yourself if her complaints are valid. For example, when your office enemy says, “Are you going to get that report done on time?” is she picky and naggy or have you finished the report late for the past three months? If it's the latter, you can fix your relationship by fixing your own behavior. Since the only behavior you have any control over is your own, this is good to know.
Try to Learn About the Coworker You Don't Like
You give people you know and like the benefit of the doubt far more often than you give it to strangers. When you learn what causes your coworker to tick, you might like her better.
For instance, your coworker who is crabby all of the time might just have gone through a terrible divorce where she lost custody of her children. Understandably, she's not happy at the moment. Maybe management passed her over for promotions three times in a row. Maybe she has a deep and abiding love for cats and just wants to talk about them.
Anything is possible and it doesn't make the person even nicer, but it makes you see where she's coming from. And that can help you learn to like the coworker you think you don't like.
Be the Adult in the Room
When you were in elementary school, teachers expected you to get along with everyone, no matter what. If you could do that when you were seven, why can't you do it at 37? The answer is that you can.
You don't have to become best friends—you do need to be polite. You need to do your job. Help other people. Don't respond to pettiness and bad behavior. Just act nicely and professionally all of the time. Professionalism can be contagious.
Never, Ever Gossip About the Coworker You Dislike
When you have a coworker you dislike, the temptation to talk about her with the coworkers you do like is sometimes overwhelming. It's fun to sit at work and talk about horrible Helga and the way she chews her food or uses Comic Sans in her emails.
Ask yourself, what good will this do? Will it help your relationship with Helga? No. Will it make you a stronger candidate for promotion? No. Will it make your department more productive? Of course not.
Don't gossip. Don't complain. Just be nice. Treat the coworker you don't like with professionalism and respect.
Seek Help With the Disliked Coworker
If your coworker causes actual problems with your work, talk to your manager. Ask your HR manager for tips about how to get along with your coworker. They really are there to help and many times, it's possible for a manager to rearrange assignments so that you don't have to constantly interact with a coworker you don't like. This is a last-ditch resort, but it can work.
All and all, remember that work is work and not loving every aspect of your job doesn't mean it's a bad job or that your coworkers are bad people. It means that your life is pretty darn normal.
Suzanne Lucas is a freelance journalist specializing in Human Resources. Suzanne's work has been featured in notable publications including Forbes, CBS, Business Insider, and Yahoo.