A 5-step framework for having difficult conversations at work
Having difficult conversations with employees is an inevitable—if uncomfortable—part of people management. Whether it’s about performance,…
What do you do when you can’t get along with one of your coworkers? Does it really matter? Could you just not get along and mind your own business? I suppose you could, but where’s the fun in that?
Your coworkers have a huge role in your happiness and engagement at work.
One of Gallup’s questions on their famous Q12 survey is “Do you have a ‘best friend’ at work?” because they understand how important friendship at work can be.
Specifically, they found that people who reported having a best friend at work were:
These results clearly show that companies should be doing everything they can to develop those friendships at work.
Similarly, in one of Officevibe’s infographics about friends at work, we found that:
So, clearly having friends at work is an important part of enjoying it.
But, of course, this is all easier said than done. You don’t always get along with the people you work with.
I’ve always been fascinated with the way workplaces operate.
You can choose who you’re friends with outside of work, but in the workplace, your “friends” are chosen for you.
I’ve always found that to be one of the most interesting social experiments.
Let’s take a bunch of people from different walks of life who have never met before, put them together, and tell them that they have to collaborate, get along, and become friends.
Now especially, with all of the focus on culture, team building, and being one big happy family, we all have to get along.
But is that really realistic? It sounds like a recipe for disaster to me.
A team of psychologists surveyed 1,100 employees as part of research for their book about dealing with coworkers.
They found that roughly 80% reported moderate to severe stress as a result of working with a difficult coworker, boss, or subordinate.
In another study led by Arie Shirom at Tel Aviv University, which looked at how coworkers affected health, they found some startling results.
The researchers tracked 820 adults for 20 years, starting with a health exam in 1988 to establish a baseline.
Over those 20 years, they were constantly being asked questions about their boss, their coworkers, and their work environment, all while being monitored for their health.
What they found was:
According to the study, workers with little or no “peer social support” in the workplace were 2.4 times more likely to die during the study.
So the stress that comes from dealing with coworkers that you might not like has a huge affect on your health.
This is important for you to understand, because realistically there will be coworkers that you don’t enjoy working with, but you have to try hard to get along with them. More than anything, for the sake of your health.
Here are a few tips that you can use to deal with a coworker you can’t get along with.
The worst thing you can do is just bottle up all your feelings and walk around all day angry.
It’s important, in a polite way, to tell the coworker how you feel. Be honest, straightforward, and explain why you feel the way you do.
A good tip is to avoid any personal attacks and focus your message on the behavior, and how that behavior makes you feel.
For example, “When you interrupted me during the team meeting, that made me feel like you don’t respect my contributions”.
Sometimes when we think we dislike a coworker, it’s for something that we’ve imagined in our heads. Making an assumption about a coworker is a dangerous thing to do.
Instead, ask questions to try and find common ground with a coworker.
Ideally, you want to have good relationships at work, so try to find ways that you guys can have things in common.
I bet if you try hard enough, you’ll find a common TV show or band that you both like.
You can’t change other people, but you can change yourself.
One of the best ways to try and fix a relationship with a coworker is by changing your own behavior. If you change, they’re likely to change too.
The best tool you have to change their behavior is to change yourself.
You need to be the bigger person and figure out a way to get along with this coworker.
The truth is, you don’t have time to deal with these things. Don’t let the stress of a coworker you can’t get along with ruin your life.
Learn how to get along with them for everyone’s sake.
This is related to being the bigger person, but a good strategy is to take the blame for their behavior.
For example, instead of saying something like “why do you always belittle me in meetings?”, say something like “I must have said something wrong during that meeting. Is there something you think I should have said instead?”
That will help strengthen your relationship.
Maybe when they snapped at you or shot down your idea in the meeting they were dealing with something personal?Sometimes, it’s more about them then it is about you…remember that.Show empathy to your coworkers and you might be surprised at how much more you like them.
As a last resort, if you really can’t get along with a coworker and you’ve tried to change but are unsuccessful, you can report them to your boss.
When you get to the point where you need to report a coworker to your boss, you need to be prepared. You don’t want to be perceived by your boss as a whiner.
Here are a few important things to keep in mind if you’re reporting a coworker that you don’t like to your boss.
You should be able to clearly show that you’ve tried many different ways to get along with this coworker, but nothing seems to be working.
Your boss should get the impression that this is really the last resort.
Your boss will be much more receptive if you come prepared with a plan.Don’t make your boss do all the work for you, you want to come prepared with a solution that is fair for everyone. This will show good initiative to your boss.
If your boss suggests something or starts asking about your behavior, don’t get defensive. Listen attentively and thank your boss for taking the time and energy to spend on this.
Or any tips for how you dealt with a coworker that you couldn’t get along with? Let us know in the comments below!