Do people who work together have to like each other?

Just think about a current or past relationship that you had at work that went awry – how much angst went into worrying about it? How much time was wasted complaining about the person – either to others, or just to yourself? What was lost by the reticence to connect?

Not liking the people you work with makes a big difference.  Two recent articles provide tips on what to do if you don’t like someone you work with, and what to do if someone doesn’t like you.

Peter Bregman’s article focuses on what to do when you don’t like a co-worker. He challenges the traditional advice of depersonalising the situation, or ‘grinning and bearing it’, claiming this is difficult if not impossible to actually do. Bregman suggests considering carefully why it is that you don’t like the person and comes to this conclusion – ‘chances are, the reason you can’t stand that person in the first place, is that they remind you of what you can’t stand about yourself’.

While it’s  simplistic to believe that all antipathy towards others is based on your own flaws, the opportunity to confront your own flaws mirrored through the behaviour of others is a great way to build self insight. And in doing so, to become a little less critical of yourself and your colleague, and perhaps improve the relationship as a result.

Robert Caldini’s take on the opposite issue, someone doesn’t like you, is to challenge yourself to take on the responsibility for changing his or her view of you. He suggests two tactics 1) give honest compliments (find some qualities in the person that you admire, be positive and give the compliments), and 2) ask for their advice (which provides the opportunity to set up a constructive exchange, the basis of relationships).

Both tactics require you to take on the responsibility of making change, and more challenging, require you to defer to the person who doesn’t like you. But if you want the change, it needs to start with you.

Poor interpersonal relationships are corrosive. Our best work is done when we experience positive human connections with others, when we are respected, encouraged, supported and liked.  Here are a couple of practical reminders of what you can do to create more positive relationships and a better work environment.



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