how to manage someone you don’t like

You’ve got someone on your team who you just don’t like. Maybe their personality grates on you, or they remind you of a despised ex, or there’s just something about them that gets under your skin.

At Intuit QuickBase’s Fast Track blog today, I talk about how to manage someone who you really don’t like spending time with. You can read it here.

{ 80 comments… read them below }

  1. Amber Rose

    I can’t stand our new guy. He’s an arrogant, dismissive jackass.

    But I worked retail for 10 years. I’ve dealt with a lot of jackasses. It’s really just a matter of putting on your big girl pants and sucking it up.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      See, I’d argue that that’s not just personal dislike; that’s about things he’s doing that make him a difficult colleague, and that’s appropriate for a manager to address as a work issue.

      1. Amber Rose

        His work is basically good though, considering he’s learning there are relatively few mistakes, and minor ones. He asks questions and takes notes on the answers. Working with him is ok.

        It’s the personal stuff. We’re pretty casual here and often slack off to chat about things when we’re slow. That’s when he becomes dismissive: laughing at a conversation we had on mental health or interrupting people to say some inane thing. He’s a hard worker and a completely unlikable person.

        1. Windchime

          Does his name start with D? Because maybe we work at the same place. We have this guy at our work. He is knowledgeable and works hard when his attendance problems aren’t getting in the way, but he is extremely arrogant and thinks that he knows more than anyone else on the team. He is always offering to “coach” us on certain topics, even though we’ve all been in the industry for over a decade and are pretty knowledgeable. We have a pretty open team and we all love to share knowledge and new techniques, but something about the way he does it is so arrogant and abrasive that I just cannot stand him.

          I don’t manage him, even though I am technically senior to him as far as the food chain goes.

          1. Amber Rose

            Wow, creepy. It does start with D… although I don’t think our guy does much coaching. Then again, I don’t work with him as much as some of the others do.

  2. Mindy

    I’m dealing with that issue, and my solution has been to just make myself be nice to her. The nicer, warmer, and friendlier I am to her, the better I actually feel about her. She still does all the same things that annoy me, but I’ve chosen not to let them get to me, and instead try to focus on the things I don’t mind about her. It’s helped tremendously (and my manager, who was concerned about our teamwork, has noticed the difference and is pretty happy about it.)

    Basically, fake it till you make it!

  3. Engineer Girl

    I had a boss like this. He had an intense hatred for me even from years before and I could never figure out why. He screamed at me, became verbally abusive (to the point where another co-worker almost punched him), refused to give me credit for my work (actually gave credit to others for my work), spread stories about me that weren’t true, withheld raises and denied a promotion.
    To this day, I have no idea what created the hatred. He refused to talk to me about it.
    I tried desperately to transfer out of his organization but he blocked it stating that the program needed me. All while telling others I was incompetent. Hey, pick one.
    I like the suggestion to spend more time with the person. Several things could happen – a) You start to understand/like the person because you see them as a human being b) You understand why you don’t like the person c) You both decide to part ways because it isn’t working.

    1. CatDog

      This happened to me as well. Though I strongly suspect it was initially because I was the most senior person on a (small) team, and happened to be the only female. We had a new senior manager come in who was a self-anointed ‘Alpha female’ who tried to steamroll over everyone she perceived as a threat, most especially if they were female, as she though had to be the top person in every situation. Didn’t matter that she was a senior manager and I was a quiet, non-managerial specialist. She also fell out with a number of senior females at her level, and tried to snatch projects that clearly belonged in other teams and bring them into ours.

      Although I was the most senior in the team and had great reviews from previous managers, she tried to undermine me by giving me progressively worse projects, and saying outright nasty things, like she thought I was paid too much and that she thought my colleagues didn’t like me (false!). Of course, if I were to begin any kind of sentence with ‘I think’, she would get mad at me for ‘assuming and not being certain’ – though it was clearly fine for her to assume what someone else was saying to the point where she was literally making up gossip. The worst thing was when she went on a business trip and made me complete her expenses form. We had plenty of float admin staff to support managers at her level, and even if she’d wanted to keep it in team I was the most senior one there. It was blatant mind games. Looking back, I wish I’d taken action against her, as being in the UK I would’ve had a good chance of winning a case against her (there are many other examples of her being a bully), but I was exhausted mentally and chose to leave instead. I discovered she left soon after I did.

    2. Somewhere Over the Rainbow

      It must have been very difficult to work with this person — that sounds bad

    3. Artemesia

      I had a boss like this although the outcomes was not as awful as what yours did to you. Once when he railed against me in a meeting in response to a suggestion I made, (which was later adopted as policy by the way) one of my colleagues said to me after the meeting — ‘you must remind him of his first wife or something.’ Luckily I had lots of chips stacked up when he arrived and sources of political support so I survived him and was rather a favorite of the next boss who gave me major responsibilities, raises and promotions. I had bent over backwards to be supportive of Badboss but no matter what I did, it ticked him off. At one point he called me in and threatened to fire me and was so abusive that I felt physically assaulted; it is a physical sensation I have never had before or since but the closest thing was when I was in a car accident and how I felt as it was happening before I knew if I would live or die. Luckily while the car accident might have been catastrophic I escaped serious injury and luckily I lived through a few years of Badboss as well.

    4. Anna

      I was in a similar position. My immediate line manager was awful to me- public humiliation, putting me down, personal attacks and refusing to acknowledge any praise offered internally and by customers. She even would make faces mimicking me at internal team meetings. It caused me so much stress I resigned to an overseas organisation. She even had the nerve to say on my resignation that she would miss me. I most certainly don’t miss her. Even after my resignation she contacted me to ask for passwords to a bounty. The nerve. She will remain in my memory as not just an incompetent line manager but one of the nastiest people I have ever encountered. My only regret I didn’t drag her through industrial court. Someone will eventually.

  4. Jen RO

    I manage someone who annoys me on a personal level (lots of unfunny jokes, immaturity, etc) and is also somewhat of a slacker at work. I keep having conversations in my head trying to decide whether item X pissed me off because of legitimate work reasons or not…

    1. Rat Racer

      Spot on. It can often be very challenging to untangle the personal from the professional. Many of the things that bother me about someone professionally make me dislike them personally and vice versa.

      1. Rat Racer

        Like if you call me “Young Lady” in a meeting, is that a personal problem or a professional one?

        If my direct report has me feeling like Liza in that “Hole in the Bucket” song (“then fix it… with a straw… if the straw is too long then cut it… with an ax…”) I will start to personally dislike him, even though his problem is lack of initiative/competence/who knows what else.

          1. Rat Racer

            No – sorry for the confusion – I do not manage the person who called me “Young Lady” He is a colleague. Hard to imagine anyone calling their manager “Young Lady” – inappropriate under any circumstance though. Unless it’s me talking sternly to my 5-year-old.

            1. AMG

              I had a colleague say this to me. Fortunately, it was a one-time event and he got laid off for being such a troublemaker. I was prepared to address it the next time though.

            2. KathyGeiss

              Even if it’s a colleague, I’d say something. I may let it fly once but if it happened again I’d be specific and ask them not to use that language with me.

            3. Connie-Lynne

              I had a VP who regularly addressed me and the other woman at the company as “ladies…” I finally called him on it (privately, and in a polite email) and he agreed to change, but as part of his apology explained “it’s what I call my daughters when I want them to hit a high standard of behavior.”

              *sigh*

              He tried, but he didn’t really get it. Now he’s in charge of leading the I&D efforts at that same company.

            4. Cath in Canada

              I hate being called Young Lady. I always want to respond by calling them Old Man, but it’s always the biggest of wigs who do it, so I’ve never felt like I can respond at all.

              1. Long Time Reader First Time Poster

                Someone called me Young Lady at work once, and I told them that only my dad was allowed to call me that. I said it in a humorous type of way, because it was a bigwig, but I was dead serious. He never called me that again!

        1. Michele

          I forgot about that “Hole in the Bucket” song, but that does describe some people that I work with. A couple years ago, I refused to take someone onto my team because of that sort of behavior.

    2. MissLibby

      Yep, I am dealing with the exact same thing. None of the annoyingness came through in the interview process. Then I wonder if it is me that is the problem…they seem to get along great with others in the office.

      1. Snoskred

        Sometimes when I have had this issue – people making jokes that I totally don’t get and find unfunny – and 99% of the time it turns out they are making jokes from tv shows I have never seen.

        I found out from googling the jokes the names of the tv shows I was missing, and I made a point of watching those particular shows, and all of a sudden I got their jokes and even found them to be funny once I had that frame of reference.

        I have a great friend who is a bit younger than me and who has not seen all the movies I have seen and once he watched some of my favourites, he got me better – and also he got people of my generation better as well!

        There is one person I know who loves animated comedies and I despise those things with a passion, so there is no way I will ever get those jokes. Just not going to happen. I can deal with it, too. :)

        1. MissLibby

          Yes, there have been many times that I have felt out of touch with TV or movie related jokes because I don’t watch a ton of TV and movies. But that is not the issue I have with this particular person. It is more like them having to have a “witty” comment for everything. Every. Thing. And asking repeatedly about the status of items that they know will not be turned into to me until a later time…um, they are not due to me until tomorrow so I don’t know how they “are looking” yet.

          1. Jazzy Red

            Annoying guy: “So, how is Grimes Project looking?”

            You: “It’s looking like I’ll know tomorrow when it gets turned in.”

            Do it every single time. Forever, if necessary. In your head, you can add “you idiot”, and move on to the next item.

    3. Mints

      It is harder when it overlaps. I am thinking of someone who I don’t manage, but my job function affects his workload. He has this weird attitude that fluctuates between aggressiveness and defensiveness. One of the first times I had a conversation with him, I ended up “yelling” at him (quotation marks because I wasn’t yelling but I was legit annoyed and just speaking kind of harshly). And this was not at all a work issue. We were talking about something and we disagreed, and it got worse.

      Buuuut his weird attitude also has work effects. He’s had bad encounters with customers and has done some slimey bus-throwing things. I do try to be conscious of it though, and treat him fairly. Although, spending more time together has not worked. I avoid him when I can

  5. Cupcake

    Alison,

    I’ve seen other articles here about when your boss doesn’t like you & how to deal with it, but what about the flip side to that coin?

    What about when you can’t stand your boss? I would love to see a Q&A on that topic and how to manage it successfully, without suffering burnout or resorting to quitting.

    1. Somewhere Over the Rainbow

      I agree. I guess we will always have to work under and over and with people that we don’t care for and that we might not otherwise associate with if it weren’t for our jobs. I think the balance comes in realizing that you have to be a professional (no matter what level you work in your company) and that you don’t have to like someone who has an annoying or immature personality; you only have to collaborate with that person to get something accomplished. I agree with the suggestion to spend more time with the person you don’t like… getting to know the person may give you better insight as to why they behave the way they do and that might make it more easy to “tolerate” the person.

      1. Cupcake

        Alison: Thank you. These are helpful. :0)

        Somewhere over the Rainbow: I agree, you still need to remain professional, even if your manager is not. Easier said than done, of course.

        1. Jazzy Red

          And remember: one of you will be moving on, and you won’t have to deal with that particular person any more!

  6. Wee

    My last boss told me I reminded him of his mother and made a few comments about my age (there was a 20 year age difference between us). The only good thing about that is I knew *why* he didn’t like me. Thankfully I a found new opportunity at the same company so I didn’t have to start over.

  7. Lizabeth

    Getting to know my co-worker has only confirmed how much a whack job she is personally and professionally.
    Cool, polite and professional is the best I can do when I have to interact with her.

    Even if she “finally” got fired, the victim card would be played 500%. There’s not much you can do with someone that is seriously out of touch with themselves.

  8. Blamange

    I have a boss who blows hot and cold at the moment. I can’t decipher her and she will reprimand me in front of customers, even when I’m right.

    I don’t know any more.

    1. AE

      I had one of those. She would go back and forth within a 10-minute conversation. She even told me I shouldn’t work with people at all – that’s how much she hated me. Previous to her I’d always been liked or at least respected by my bosses. She eventually got fired. I suspect some serious personality disorder was at work there.

      1. Blamange

        Yes a lot of us think she has some personality disorder because of how she treats people and in general. She takes out her personal life on us sometimes, we know not to go near her if she has an ounce of a neutral face, and it takes a toll on you.

        1. NickelandDime

          Well, you can take some comfort in this: It’s not personal. She treats lots of people like crap. This really has nothing to do with her disliking you, and everything to do with her issues, and the fact that she can’t handle them in a professional setting. And The Powers That Be finally got tired of it and got rid of her. Think of how nice our jobs could be if more companies followed suit and got rid of jerks.

          I hope she took the firing as a warning call to make some changes in her life.

    2. AMG

      Yep. I had a boss who ran me off from an old job. He was Italian and would say that if you have 3 Italians in a room, you will have at least 5 opinions. Also, he didn’t like that I made more money than his wife and told me so, and told me that he didn’t like my having a Coach notebook because if his wife couldn’t have one, I shouldn’t either. He was eventually fired for doing all of the things he accused me of doing. Clearly not about me.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian

          Ha. One of my fellow admin asistants entered our former deans assistant’s name as “The Actual Devil” in her cell phone contacts. I always got a kick out of that (we used our cell phones to communicate with each other during event coordination such as honors banquet or commencement, when we needed to stay in touch even though we were not at our desks).

    3. tango

      I always wondered how these people treat their loved ones/family/friends if they treat their subordinates and coworkers so horribly? We always treat those we’re more comfortable with worse than strangers or those we know less well. I know sometimes there are those who have no power in their personal life so exert it in unreasonable ways in their professional life since it is the only way they don’t feel helpless. But I’m not talking about them. I mean those people who are just outright nasty or mean or whatever at work. You know their spouses/kids/families must bear even a greater brunt of their bad behavior.

  9. Bevina del Ray

    One thing that has helped me is to picture them (bosses, colleagues, whomever that is hard to like) as babies. Or picture them dying (not in a messed up way, but picturing them ‘at rest’) which helps me to remember that we’re all just people and the big picture is about more than work. It’s hard to take this approach to be compassionate at times, while also maintaining a healthy separation/distance so you’re not at all invested in their personal issues. But to just remember–there are days where we all throw people for a loop, need to hide and cry it out, where our feelings get the better of us, or where we didn’t do or say the right thing. If it’s constant frustration and you’re a manager, you can address it; if it’s constant bad behavior and the person is YOUR manager, trust your gut and move on.

    1. AMG

      I have tried this too. Give yourself an imaginary reason to be sympathetic. My daughter is 10 and is a Drama Queen. I pretend that the person I don’t like is her future self, and that I would want someone to treat her with compassion and see the ‘real’ her.

      Some people are just jerks, though, and you give yourself the gift of professional integrity and treat them with respect.

  10. AE

    Boy have I dealt with that! Sometimes I start out liking them and then they get on my nerves as I get to know them better. But eventually if they’re not total jerks we work things out. One supervisee was a chatty Cathy who constantly asked me questions about my childhood, as if we were gal pals comparing notes. My childhood was horrible and hers was supportive & healthy & upper middle class. I finally told her to stop it and she did.

    I have another one who reminds me of a mentally ill relative. It’s hard to be encouraging when part of me says “but with your personal qualities you are doomed to be a low level performer and never have any responsibility.” I suspect something like gaydar may be sensing some kind of problem, but work performance is the only issue I discuss. We have nothing in common at all, which makes it even worse. I just try to be friendly, cordial, but firm about performance.

    1. Mabel

      What do you mean about gaydar? The other person might be gay? or you think they might be thinking you’re gay? Or something else?

      1. really

        I think that they have radar that picks up on mental issues that others miss, like gaydar that picks up gay vibes that others miss.

      2. Clever Name

        I’ve heard “gaydar” to refer to a sense that some people have that another person might be gay. I’m not intending to put words in AE’s mouth, but I think they are saying that they have an intuitive sense about the other person’s nature, which is similar to the “gaydar” intuitive sense. Not meaning the other person is/is not gay, which isn’t really relevant here in any case.

        1. Jazzy Red

          We could try calling that “wackdar”. It doesn’t rhyme, but it’s easy to say.

  11. I live to serve

    Okay, this might not help but for me….
    I pray…
    I pray for all the good things that I want for myself for them.
    For the department clerk who was making my life miserable- I found out later that she was under the misguided impression that the administration was not going to hire someone in my role (there was an 8 month national search) but that she would be promoted to run the department. For the first four months that I was here, she did nothing I asked of her (all the while saying yes to my face). For the next year and 1/2 she was on PIP and filing grievances that I was abusive towards her.
    Every morning and every night…
    Dear Lord,
    I pray that Nellie Olsen will
    wake up in a warm home surrounded by loved ones,
    that she will have physical and mental well being
    that she finds work that she loves at a living wage.
    For these things I pray.

    HR observed me writing during a particularly stressful union grievance meeting- (the employee through the union rep accused me of discrimination.) After the meeting the HR director asked what I had written as anything in writing could be requested for the arbitration. I was writing my prayer over, and over. She read it and laughed. Turns out usually in this kind of meeting the manager is writing “that bitch is lying”

    1. Windchime

      I’m going to start calling co-workers that I don’t like “Nellie Olsen” (but only in my head). I love it!

    2. pony tailed wonder

      The actress who played Nellie Oleson wrote an autobiography that was pretty illuminating. Turns out that she and Melissa Gilbert were best pals on the set. She also was sexually abused by a relative from an early age. She does a lot of work for AIDS charities now. The book was one of the better autobiographies that I have read from the Little House actors. Melissa Gilbert’s autobiography was a roller coaster and Melissa Anderson’s was good and consistent.

      1. Nanc

        Oh, yes, that book was fantastic! And if you ever get to see her performing live, do so. I can’t even describe how entertaining her show is!

    3. Jazzy Red

      That is one of the loveliest prayers I’ve ever heard. I’m going to be using it, with some modifications, for a difficult person I have to interact with lately.

      In one of his plays, Shakespeare wrote “the quality of mercy…is twice blessed. It blesses him who gives, and him who takes”. I think prayer is like that.

    4. Connie-Lynne

      There was a comedy on-air a while back that had a great segment wherein one of the characters is coached, whenever he is filled with unspeakable rage at the behaviors of others around him, to repeat to himself “Thank you; I love you.” Since it’s a comedy, he fails utterly and manages to make it come out sounding like a curse.

      My husband and I make a joke of it, but it honestly does help sometimes to try to think that in my head rather than “WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU.”

      Your prayer reminds me of that.

    5. AmyDorrit

      I’m really grateful that you posted this. I’m going to print a copy of your post out so I can remember to say it!

  12. Anonymous Educator

    I try my best to not think of co-workers as “I like her” or “I dislike her.” Of course I have those opinions and feelings, but I operate on a more pragmatic level. I know a lot of people approach work as “these are the people I like; these are the people I don’t like.” I focus more on the behavior.

    For example, if you’re supposed to email me something, and you talk to me about it in person with no written follow-up, it may get done, or it may not get done. And if you email it to me, I will get it done right now and extremely well. That applies to people I like and to people I don’t like.

    Not everyone operates that way. I know a lot of co-workers and former co-workers who go off the “Oh, I like you? Okay. I’ll do that. I’ll make an exception.” model instead.

    1. MissLibby

      In my situation, I actually had to do what Alison recommended in number 1 – admit to myself that I don’t like this person. This doesn’t mean I treat them differently than my other staff because I acknowledge like or dislike….it actually keeps me from making my personal annoyance into a work issue and helps keep things in perspective. This person is not a bad employee, they just are annoying to me on a personal level. Before I acknowledged what was going on , I wanted to make everything into a work issue. Now I can be more objective in analyzing whether something is really an issue or if it is just annoying to me on a personal level.

  13. Lisa

    If I don’t like you professionally I don’t like you personally and I’ve tried to differentiate between the two but I’ve always thought if I can’t trust or depends on you at work I couldn’t deal with you outside of work because you probably have the same tendencies

  14. Not So NewReader

    In one place I worked, the boss would come to me saying “I don’t think Coworker likes me.”
    And likewise the same Coworker would say to me, “I don’t think Boss likes me.”

    And this went on. Finally, I landed on, “Why don’t you figure out whether you like the other one or not and see where that puts you?”

    Yeah. Okay. It ended up that Boss and Coworker were fine with each other and the Boss did not like me. This is the problem with being the one in the middle. A secondary problem is not realizing you are in the middle. I should have redirected both conversations to “talk it out with each other.” My suggestions set me up for failure. I was caught off guard on this one, because it was early on and none of the three of us knew each other that well. I was surprised by how quickly people make assumptions and then settle on that assumption as being real, when there is no factual basis for the assumption.

  15. office chick

    I know I’m a little bit late to the game here, but I’m definitely feeling this right now. We hired a guy that is smart but doesn’t completely listen to me. I suspect he might be sexist, but that doesn’t make sense unless he was desperate for work since I’m his boss and my boss who we also work closely with is also female.
    He says some pretty damn inappropriate things sometimes. Like “since my wife is from _____, she knows to take care of everything I bring home from hunting and fishing without complaining about it. ” and the more recent rant on “how disgusting Bruce Jenner is” i really just wanted to scream at him to have an effing heart or shut up before he gets beat up going off like this in front of the wrong crowd. I actually daydreamed the other day of hog tying him and dropping him in the middle of a cabaret bar.

  16. NickelandDime

    You know what? When I started my current position and made the rounds meeting everyone, there were a couple of people that seemed off to me. I had an uncomfortable, unsettling feeling about them. I just filed it away. I didn’t ignore it, because my intuition was definitely trying to tell me something, but I didn’t act on it in any way. I treated them cordially and professionally. Eventually, I figured out my intuition was correct. These things are going to happen at work with colleagues. You have to control your reaction to it. Allison’s advice was correct.

    1. Anonymouse

      This! +1! At my last job I felt this “offness” too but ignored it and tried to rationalize it with “Oh, as I get to know them better I’ll like them.” But many of those issues stayed and even intensified, especially between my supervisor and me, but also colleague to colleague.

      I’m interviewing now and I’m really trying to honor my intuition. Glad to see that I’m not the only one!

      1. NickelandDime

        Luckily my manager and colleague are great. It was four specific people that I had a bad feeling about. Three of them are no longer here and the other I just try to be cordial.

  17. Anon for this

    A few years ago, I had someone join my team as an internal transfer, and I soon found that I didn’t particularly like him. I am a fairly gregarious person, and I enjoy the culture element of my work environment as much as I enjoy the work itself. My team had a very strong element of team culture, and we would have team lunches and other activities, as well as occasional conversations about all sorts of random topics. This person didn’t like to participate in any of these activities, and I got the feeling that he didn’t really like us, and that led to me having a distaste for him as well. But his work was excellent, and he collaborated with the other members of the team very well, so I worked hard to treat him the same way I would any other productive member of the team.

    The punchline to the story is that after about six months, during one of our checkins, he told me that he was so happy he had been able to move to this team, and that he enjoyed both the work and the people a lot, and felt like he was building better relationships and developing soft skills in a way he hadn’t been able to on his other team. Here I’d thought he had disliked us and wanted no part of us outside of getting the work done, but he was feeling like he was developing better relationships with people. It made me reassess my feelings about this person, helped teach me to think about different personality types and how they play into team fit.

  18. Marilyn

    One time a boss told a friend of mine, “When you don’t like someone, they know it.” She was very critical of that. And I worked with this particular friend – I agreed with the comment! She was very passive and very disengaging when someone was on board that she didn’t like. She would very often stonewall coworkers. It was very bad for business.

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