How to cope when you work with someone you dislike

Address any fears, let go of the anger and look for the good in the relationship

Faith Wood knows how to resolve conflict. Her years in front-line law enforcement taught her how to effectively de-escalate any situation to a successful conclusion. Faith will use her knowledge of conflict management to guide you through the often stressful experiences you may encounter in your personal or professional life. Her Conflict Coach column appears every two weeks.

Faith WoodQuestion: I sit on a volunteer board with an individual who has been the bane of my existence for the better part of a year. I find him to be ultra-disrespectful and yet the other board members seem to take no notice of this behaviour.

Every time I head to a meeting with this person, I feel like I’m going into battle. I truly dislike this person immensely and feel helpless in addressing the belittling behaviours. All of this is filling me with incredible anxiety.

Do you have any tips for how to navigate someone you don’t like at all but are forced to continue to work beside?

Answer: Let’s face it, you’re not going to like everyone. Sometimes the feeling is mutual. We meet someone who just rubs us wrong. You’re instant rivals, right down to the barely-suppressed sneer and curled lip.

Other times it’s not quite so dramatic. You might be making every effort to build a relationship but they’re just not having it. Or there’s some history standing in the way of a relationship with someone.

Whatever the case, there comes a time to let dislike go. Holding onto animosity, even something so subtle as not wanting to be around an individual at work, only hurts you in the end.

Although working with someone who rubs us the wrong way is never easy, here are three strategies that may help you cope:

Address any fears

When we dislike someone, it’s frequently because they’re triggering us somehow.

By looking deeper into the emotions being raised, and addressing them, you’ll be able to let go of a lot of the negativity you’re feeling toward them.

This is especially true of fears, which have a way of looking like a lot of other things, such as dislike.

Let go of the anger

Much like fears, anger has a way of keeping up a pretense of hearty dislike. This is what happens when you let things fester, especially over something you’ve been holding onto for a while.

Try forgiveness. Lay the past to rest between you and try accepting this individual now, in the moment.

Look for the good in the relationship

If you’re caught up in dislike, you might not have noticed there’s been a positive impact on your relationship.

Look for the things you’ve learned from the individual. Even harsh lessons have a way of guiding us onto new paths, benefiting us in the long run.

Sometimes we do ourselves a great disservice by hanging onto an immediate feeling of dislike for someone.

As humans who grow and change (if we allow for it), relationships with those we don’t like can improve.

Even if the connection never becomes stronger, accepting that the person is just the way they are will bring more peaceful energy into your life.

Troy Media columnist Faith Wood is a novelist and professional speaker who focuses on helping groups and individuals navigate conflict, shift perceptions and improve communications. 

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