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Conflict resolution in the workplace: what to do if you hate your coworker

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Summary: Read the following tips to learn how you can get along with a coworker you don’t particularly like.

When You Love Your Job But Hate Your Coworkers
 
  • How can a person love their work but hate their coworkers?
  • As strange a relationship as this may seem it is quite common in virtually every work environment.
  • The fact is a worker who finds they love their job but has conflict with their coworkers will soon find this is not a sustainable pairing.
  • So the question is what is that worker prepared to do about it?

There are two places in which a person does not want, nor can afford, continuous tension. The first is that person’s family, while the second is where that person works.



Sure, problems can be, as they say, swept under the rug. Some folks shrug their shoulders and swallow their pride, while others have meltdowns and tear apart everything around themselves – which unfortunately can include loved ones at home and good friends at work. Conflict resolution in the workplace is really important so that employees don’t end up overwhelmed and stress. There are many reasons that conflict with a coworker can arise:
 
  • Insularity
  • Anger
  • Those who “self-medicate”
  • Those who fester their frustration
  • Those who simply fade away, ignoring tasks both at home and work…

…Are all part of why issues of displeasure, disappointment, dishonesty and yes, for as strong as the word is in this article’s title, hate, cannot be dealt with through the same type of behavior. Simply put one cannot battle hate with more hate, at least not in civil atmospheres.

Loving your job but having conflict with your coworkers is a lot like loving your part as a family member but hating your own kids.

It isn’t tenable. Instead, it’s a real problem, particularly in a work environment. The fact of the matter is if you find yourself in a situation like this you will need to do something about it, and quickly before it intensifies into a more dire situation.
 
How to resolve conflict in the workplace

Before you quit your job and start a blazing row with your colleagues, it’s worth bearing in mind a few things. Firstly, conflict in the workplace is normal, and no job would come without its fair share of stresses. Secondly, there is always a way to resolve conflict with a coworker and learning how to resolve conflict is a great skill and one that will stand you in good stead as you navigate through your career.

First of all, you need your job. And losing or quitting a job over personality clashes never has a good outcome.

Conversely, however, it does you no good to suppress your ill feelings regarding your coworkers. Do that and the job you love you’ll soon learn to loathe and despise.

The Balance recently published an article titled 6 Tips for Working With People You Don't Like. As the article by Suzanne Lucas states, yours would be a dream job if you had coworkers with whom you not only like to collaborate on the job, but socialize with when the day ends.

Of course while we all can’t work beside those who mesh perfectly with our personalities; people who we would want to eat with during our lunch breaks, then have drinks with once the day finished, we face as much chance of working with someone we’d never have a meal or even a cup of coffee with no matter what hour of the day.

Regardless of this, a less than stellar work situation involving a less than stellar workmate can be beat. Quitting is not necessary and for sure not recommended as a person may be giving up a good job in a good work environment which values that person’s productivity.

Conflict resolution in the workplace

Here are a few tips that will help you resolve conflict with a coworker:
 
  1. Document the Disliked Coworker's Bad Behavior

The power of words are not unlike any other power available to a person anywhere and at any time. What this means is the power behind words is also available in the work environment – and truth be told, that power can be immeasurable.

Of course, documenting a coworker’s bad behavior involves a process in which Lucas suggests that if Worker A has a complaint against Worker B, Worker A should first ask themselves why they don’t like Worker B in the first place, and with that give themselves a clear and honest answer.

Sure, a person can be bitter, childish and petty about a coworker they don’t like. They can:
 
  • Be jealous of their work success.
  • Not like how the person looks or dresses.
  • Feel contempt toward a coworker because their work seems to come easier to them than others.
  • Feel contempt toward a coworker because they get along with everyone else except the worker who dislikes them.

In short, this is a poor argument for disliking a fellow employee and no documentation in the world – no matter how well written or accounted for – will lend itself to some sort of managerial action against Worker B. More likely than not, any sort of reprimand will fall onto the worker with the complaint, not the worker that is being complained about. In this case the conflict with a coworker is largely imagined and is a case of one person not liking the other.

Now, in cases of deception, dishonesty, fraud or trickery, documentation of that worker’s actions, behavior and tactics can be a forceful argument as to why one worker dislikes another – and for good reason when the healthy atmosphere of the company both work for is considered.

If faced with an employee who in essence is trying to beat the company’s system, whether through dishonesty, theft, lying about their productivity etc., try to keep a log of that person’s routine. Note down how exactly they are taking advantage of the company and/or other workers, including yourself.

Sure, you may feel like a snitch of sorts, but the fact is if you truly believe you dislike a person based on their job performance (or lack thereof), you aren’t in the least bit childish or petty. Now, if this were about something non-work related, well, your issue with that person doesn’t belong in the work place in the first place.

2. Identify Whether You're Actually the Problem

Have you thought about the fact that maybe it’s you and no one else who has a conflict with this coworker? Maybe you think, or rather imagine they are conducting themselves negatively at work. And with that, maybe you’re just flat-out wrong to do so.

This is where the importance of self-examination comes in. Be honest, straightforward and truthful about your conflict with your coworker.. So what if she just bought a new car the same week she netted a gorgeous new boyfriend? Who cares if he got employee of the month and a parking space closer to the office’s front door? Are these really worth the negative efforts on your part?

In another sense sometimes the reason that coworker conflict can occur is because they may share the same bad habits. Or there are times when one coworker dislikes another because the disliked coworker is critical of the first coworker, and is constantly telling that person how to do their job.

Lucas states: “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 being picky and fussy or have you finished the report late for the past three months?”

3. Try to Learn About the Coworker You Don't Like

Ask yourself some questions about the conflict with a coworker, such as:
 
  • What do you know about the coworker you have so much disdain for?
  • Have you two had a conversation instead of a confrontation?
  • Do you know anything about their work expectations?
  • Do you know enough about them to make an honest assessment of your dislike for this person?

As Lucas explains, people tend to give others they know and like the benefit of the doubt far more than they give it to strangers, particularly strangers at work.

Yet, once we learn more about these “strangers,” such as who they are, where they come from and what makes them tick within the office, we may not like them that much better, but at least we lean a bit more to understanding them better.

Case in point, your coworker who is crabby all of the time might just have gone through a terrible divorce where they lost custody of their children. Understandably, they’re not happy at the moment.

Or in another example, management may have passed them over for promotions three times in a row. Maybe they have a deep and abiding love for cats and just wants to talk about them.

You never know, and never will unless you lower your front and at least try to have a decent conversation with this person.

Anything is possible and it doesn't make the person closer or nicer. However, it makes you see where they are coming from and this can go a long way towards conflict resolution in the workplace.. And that can help you learn to like the coworker you think you never did or ever would.

4. Be the Adult in the Room

Lucas suggests that when we were in elementary school, teachers expected us to get along with everyone, no matter what. If we could do that when we were seven, why can't we do it now at 37? The answer is we can.

Unclench your fists and stay calm, there is always a way to resolve conflicts at work. Remember, in the long run, you and your coworker are in this boat together. You both have to work. You may not like it, but both of you realize a good job when you have it, and at least that is something you two can be in agreement about.

5. Never, Ever Gossip About the Coworker You Dislike

Please don’t be that person.

When you have a coworker you dislike, the temptation to talk trash about them can be overwhelming. Meanwhile, the negative results from that trash talking can also be overwhelming.

For one thing, gossiping does not make for good karma. Secondly, how do you think trash-talking another employee will make you look in the long run? Other employees, including your on-the-job friends may begin to second guess your allegiance with them. They may wonder if you might one day turn the tables on them. Then what?

Ask yourself some questions about whether bitching is going to resolve the conflict...
 
  • Will it help the negative relationship you have with the coworker you don’t like? No.
  • Will it make you a stronger candidate for a promotion? Not likely.
  • Will it make your department more productive? No, it won’t.

6. Seek Help With the Disliked Coworker

Lucas suggests that if your coworker causes actual problems with your work, talk to your manager or HR. Enquire about how to get along with this coworker. HR and management are there to help and if possible rearrange assignments so that you don't have to constantly interact with a coworker you don't like. Lucas warns however, that this is a last-ditch resort, but it can work.

7. Another approach from another perspective

Susan Gelb who writes for The Muse has additional resolves for those who have difficult coworker(s). These resolutions, however, are from an angle in which you are the only person who dislikes a certain coworker while everyone else adores him or her.

In her article How to Deal with a Coworker You Don’t Like – But Everyone Else is Obsessed With, Gelb suggests the following:

8. Remember That It’s Okay to Not Like Someone

As Gelb suggests, many of us hold immense guilt for not liking or thinking negatively about a certain person.

But in its own way, that’s okay.

Not liking someone’s personality is no different than disfavoring a particular shirt in a clothing store, a particular fragrance, or a particular item on a menu. It’s a matter of opinion, and not liking someone strictly based on opinion is a right we are entitled to even if we are in the minority or more isolating, the only person from others who dislikes what is otherwise a crowd favorite coworker. The key is to try to keep that dislike from causing conflicts at work.

9. Remember That a Feeling and Acting on a Feeling are Two Very Different Things

It’s one thing to privately dislike someone, or dislike something that this someone has accomplished or done. This person might stress you out, irritate you or make you feel uncomfortable.

Yup, you can dislike or even hate Bob’s AMG Mercedes-Benz and his Heuer chronograph right along with Bob himself, but again, that’s up to you and your own reasoning.

What you can’t do, however, is act on that dislike or hate and cause a workplace conflict. Acting out in a hurtful or even harmful way will get you into difficulties that will more than likely expand beyond the workplace. Sure, treating a person rudely or inappropriately might get you reprimanded at your job either through a suspension or even a firing. But anything more that night involve outside authorities can really land you in hot water.

Conflict resolution in the workplace can be really difficult, but you have to keep your cool. As Gelb states, having your emotional act together is being able to feel a certain way without needing to act on that feeling – no matter if that occurs inside or outside the workplace.

10. Remember That When Someone Pushes Your Buttons, There’s a Reason for It

While one needs a bit of self-reflection to grasp this observation, it nonetheless makes perfect sense when it is thought out. Simply put, if you have a conflict with a coworker, it may have more to do with you and something in your past, than the person who irritates you at work.

In short, if someone profoundly bugs you, the emotions you’re feeling are not coming out of nowhere. It instead is likely this person reminds you of someone else who may have hurt you in the past.

Gelb offers a situation many of us have gone through in our childhood; that maybe the coworker who drives us nuts by constantly interrupting or correcting us brings up memories of our mothers.

Or maybe your conflict with a coworker is over them acting a certain way in one-on-one meetings with you, but then putting on a completely different face and demeanor for group meetings when the boss is watching.

In situations like this, you might be reminded of your “perfect” older sister who always won everyone’s affection and praise, even though she was mean to you when the two of you were alone together.

Psychologically Gelb analyzes that if someone at work irritates you, and the feeling of frustration is very intense and lasts more than 15 seconds, it’s a strong signal that something from your past is being triggered. That something is often (though not always) connected to a situation from childhood.

In the end, Gelb suggests all of us do some soul searching or free writing to see if we can connect the dots, understand ourselves a bit better, and ultimately, forgive whomever once hurt us so we don’t have to continue carrying around the burden of resentment.

11. Remember That You Can Express Yourself Honestly—Without Being Unprofessional

If your coworker is doing something specific that upsets you, you can—and should—have a civil conversation about it. Ideally, this should occur sooner rather than later when your disagreements might blow up into something irreconcilable.

Gelb concludes that we need to be reasonable yet specific about our request to confront the person who is irritating us at work.

It is possible to talk about an issue without resorting to an accusatory tone, rudeness, or other unprofessional behavior? Yes, it is.

Don’t moan or gossip. Instead, be the bigger person of professionalism. Sure, it may be difficult, but the payoff will go much further through others who will see you admirably, and in that, could very well inspire them to take their own next step upward to your level.

Conclusion

We spend most of our adult lives working. Having a job and doing a good job of that job is a must for our existence.

With that said, our workplace has to be one civility, trust and for the most part, camaraderie. No, we don’t have to go beyond business hours and have dinner and drinks to show decency and respect toward each other. All that needs to happen in regard to decency and respect is that it occur within the workplace. If that happens, each worker’s daily tasks will go much more smoothly.

After all, as employees, isn’t that the one thing we can all agree upon: The need for a smooth workday?

Of course it is.
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