Hate Your Co-Worker? It’s Ok.


October 10, 2010

What are the universal truths in life?  Ask most people and they will tell you “death and taxes”, and to some extent that is true.  But another truth is conflict.  You will not like everyone.  Maybe it’s just me, but I sometimes wonder why so many HR professionals spend so much of our time trying to get people to like one another and be nice.  It’s unrealistic.  People come to us with the problems they have dealing with someone on their team or in their department that they can’t get along with.  We talk through various techniques they can use to make the relationship better.  But why?

I know, I know.  If everyone gets along the organization benefits.  I understand that.  But it’s just not possible.  So, instead of facing situations with people they don’t like, they try to ignore it.  Well, here’s my advice…

Grow up.  Understand that we do not all have to like each other.  We do not have to agree on everything.  If it’s someone I must work with on an ongoing basis, I’ve even gone as far as to be direct with that person and say, “Hey, I know you don’t care for me and you know I don’t care for you.  But, we will both look better to the powers that be if we can put on our game face and pretend to get along.  I’ll back you up, you back me up.  We’ll both look like winners.”

Real Life

I’ve actually had that conversation with someone years ago and then we each followed it up by saying nice things once in awhile about each other’s work.  We even decided to collaborate on something so we could at least understand why the other person did things a certain way.  It turned out to be one of the most successful projects I ever worked on because she and I were so different in our approach.  We each brought something very unique to the end result.

Did we ever become friends?  No.  I really couldn’t stand her and I am positive she felt the same about me.  But, did everyone think we were respectful colleagues who could accomplish great things together?  Yes.  And, over time, we actually had a workable relationship.  I didn’t have to worry that she was talking behind my back or trying to sabotage my career.  I’m sure she felt the same way.  We stopped spending time and energy in something that would damage us both at work.

So, what’s the point?

Really, it’s just a wake-up call that for all the articles and posts out there that tell us we all have to be nice, play nice, work nice, and like everyone, it’s not true.  Be yourself, don’t go out of your way to hurt others, be honest with the few people you don’t care for, try to stay away from the people you can’t stand, and the rest will work itself out.  Oh yeah, and remember to watch your back!

What do you think?  How do you handle the situation when you don’t like a colleague or someone you have to deal with?


  • I have not liked many co-workers of mine over the years. I know many have not liked me. Big freakin’ deal.

    How I deal with them depends on whether or not they are plotting against me. Some have. Some haven’t. Others just merely pretend to like me. I don’t give the same coutesty. I do not pretend to do ANYTHING, including like someone when I don’t.

    In the end, if they plot against me, I let them hang themselves. Generally, one has to hang themself when they are trying to trip me up and get me to do something I’m not supposed to. In the end, Karma plays itself out and I generally have to do little to effect Karma’s cold, calculating hand.

    When there is no plot, I still just let it play out. I do nothing to “fake” whether or not I like someone, nor do I go out of my way to let them know I don’t like them.

    Only once did someone who disliked me for (seemingly) no reason last longer than I at a job, and that job was suspect, anyway. After all, she was (and still IS) a miserable cow. Let her live her pathetic life as it is; I need to do nothing to effect her pathetic life…

    I generally only dislike someone who has decided, without getting to know me, to not like me. Then I feel pity for them, as they are judgmental fools.

    • @Doug= First, I have to compliment you on always putting it out there for us to chew on. And, I mean that in the most positive way. What’s interesting is that since I know you personally, I would guess that a majority of people love you because of your vibrant personality. However, some may be threatened because you are so appealing to people. You’re right about letting people hang themselves though. No need to help them do it. I’m curious though if you’ve ever had a situation where you knew a colleague did not like you but you turned their thinking around. Ever happen?

  • Thanks for laying the truth out there, even though it is hard to look at! Generally speaking, we tend to look at people through their behaviors. Through the teachings of a terrific coach of mine, Sharon Sinclair, I’ve been making the shift to lookiing at people for their commitments. What I’m finding is that when I discover a shared commitment, I can get past the behavioral things I don’t prefer and enjoy shared success. Sounds like that’s what you did in working on a common project with your former nemesis, turned partner, but not friend.

    One of my other great coaches, Dad, gave me a book when I first hit the working world. “Dealing with People You Can’t Stand” by Dr. Rick Brinkman and Dr. Rick Kirschner offers terrific insights into understanding abrasive behaviors with specific strategies to handle them. It’s a great “one plane trip” read.

    And, a third coach, my 14-year-old daughter Emma, played Alice in “Alice in Wonderland” and sang a song with the lyrics “I give myself very good advice, but very seldom follow it.” That hit home with me. So, I have to keep reminding myself that I don’t hate people, though I may abhor their behaviors. That advice calls for me to get closer to seek understanding, rather than holding them at arms length to perpetuate my disdain for them.

    As long as I committedly shed my intrinsic desire to be liked and trade it up for a desire to be productive, I ironically become more likeable and I like a lot more people.

    Again, Trish, thanks for inspiring introspection!


    • @DK- thank you So much for sharing some of the things your life coaches have shared with you. One interesting thing I hope people pick up on (and one I believe in) is that you can have coaches of all ages and roles in your life. Sounds like you’re lucky to have Sharon, Emma, and Dad in your corner. And now, we’re all learning from them too. Thanks for sharing that!

  • Self-esteem goes a long way when you own up to the fact that there’s no way to like everyone–especially people who become your co-workers. I realized a long time ago that I’m not at work to make friends, I’m there to serve the needs of the organization and that can mean being put in places with people who just don’t gel with me on a professional or personal level.

    I’ve found it useful to keep your comments to yourself and not share the contempt, nor try to spread it. It’s fine to give performance feedback and to comment on the behavior people exhibit when the work is just not getting done. It’s just bad form to instigate attacks on others because you don’t like them.

    And if you’re in an office with a majority of people you simply cannot stand to be around and there’s physical remifications, then you do realize you have other choices…and one of them is leaving!

    • @Jim- You bring up several great points I didn’t think to touch on. First, the self-esteem. I agree with you and take it further that people with low self-esteem are often the ones to pick on other people and have no sense of understanding for people who they don’t “gel” with. I also love what you say about not sharing or spreading the contempt. Well said and thank you for commenting!

  • This is good information. Although we’d all like to get along with everyone, there are too many factors that come into play. I’m not one to hide my true feelings but I do try to understand the human factor that everyone has a different personality. If you can accept someone for who they truly are, liking them or not, it makes working with them a bit easier and you’re not always trying to attack them for their actions or comments.

    You can alleviate a lot of frustration by concluding that it is who they are and if you can put it in perspective that way, your day may be a lot easier to get through.

    • @Therese- Bravo! You hit it on the head when you said that we really should attack people for their actions/ comments all the time. When we do that we’re just wasting our time and energy and not focusing on the positive aspect of the situation. Thanks for sharing.

  • Trish, this is so important and I’m glad you’re talking about it! Kudos on taking the initiative to collaborate with that colleague: what a smart way to approach such a situation!

    • @Ed- Thanks Ed. It certainly was not the easiest thing to do (to ask her to collaborate) but I’m glad I did. It taught me a good lesson at a very early stage of my career. Now, if I ever run into a similar situation, I will handle it in a similar manner. Thankfully, it’s not often that I’ve come across someone I just can’t work with. Thanks for making time to comment. I appreciate it.

  • Hate is never ok. There is a big difference between not liking and not wanting or needing to be friends, and hating.

    Seeking understanding and collaboration is wise and God-pleasing. When it works, great! When it doesn’t, we’re still called to be respectful and kind and show the love of Christ, even to those we perceive in our flesh to be our enemies. We’re not responsible for how they respond.

    • @Lou Ann- Thank you for commenting. I agree, hate is a strong word. I hope my example of how I handled my own situation demonstrates that respectful behavior is definitely the way to go.

  • Trish- This is where maturity comes into play. It’s what I try to teach my kids- sometimes the situation isn’t ideal- but you work with it and make the best of it until you can make the moves to change it. But changing it isn’t always the answer either. There are problems and problem people everywhere you go- you can’t run from it. The best thing to do is learn how to deal with difficult people and grow as a person. It’s part of those life lessons that some people never learn to handle.

    Fortunately I absolutely adore everyone I work with. However- If I had to work where my husband does- I would be having to suck it up quite a bit- as many of his co-workers have me counting my blessings that I don’t work there. 🙂

    • @Gina- You are so right. It is something that we have to teach our kids so that they don’t run from the situation, but deal with it as effectively as possible. Thank goodness you work where you do. Sounds like hubby has another dynamic at his employer. 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  • Well said. Few are lucky enough to enjoy all positive relationships at work. The “ninja tactics” described in this post are vital. More vital is to invest in positive relationships outside of work, where we have more choices, and the cost of disengagement is lower.

  • Trish-

    I know that my “bright and vibrant” personality is very polarising. I have found that you either love me or you hate me.

    The weirdest thing is that when someone has turned their thinking around about me, I genereally have to be the one who has warmed up to that person. I ignore those people, and generally, they then have to sell themselves to me. I admit to holding grudges.

    In the end, I have no interest in changing one’s mind about me. After all, it took me 30 years to not care what others think about my personality. I only care how people feel I treat others and how well I do my work.

    • @Doug- Line worth repeating/ stressing…”I only care how people feel I treat others and how well I do my work.” Words to live by and so true. Thanks for including your comment.

Comments are closed.

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About Trish

A former HR executive and HCM product leader with over 20 years of experience.


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