4 Ways to Manage People You Don’t Like

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Mar 15, 2018

Sooner or later, you’re going to be put in charge of a project, team, or department where you’ll discover that you’re working with someone who “rubs you the wrong way.” Sometimes you know why. Often you don’t.

When explaining that negative gut reaction to yourself, you may label someone “arrogant,” “slick,” “lazy,” “self-righteous,” “sniveling,” “dorky,” “helpless,” “weird,” “intimidating” (and I can think of worse labels). If you were building a case for a jury, you couldn’t prove the label. But you feel the dislike all the same.

So how do you supervise someone when you have a strong dislike for them?

Lean on policies, procedures, and criteria to override feelings

“Seat of the pants” management can lead you astray. It’s far too easy to feel comfortable and accommodating to those you like best, and feel uncomfortable and distrusting of those you dislike. Yet as a leader, you know you should treat everyone equally. When you don’t, you’ll hear complaints of favoritism about rewards, recognition, and plum assignments.

And when favored employees ask for special accommodations, and there’s not a policy in place to address their issue, you tend to say yes and grant favors. Not so, with those you dislike.

Make it your goal to set up policies, procedures, and criteria to address common issues. Then live with them.

Assess the personality alignment

Often your dislike of someone comes down to simply a personality clash. You’re a driver leading an analytical type. Or, you’re a relater trying to work with a melancholy person, who shudders every time you mention hosting a client event. Reframing your dislike as a personality mismatch goes a long way in helping you to understand the other person’s perspective — and possibly even to reassign roles and tasks because of that understanding.

Evaluate based on outcomes

Understand that you’re going to be more apt to praise and reward the work done by those you like. So make sure each project has measurable goals and completion metrics. Agree to them. Reward according to them. You’re assuring yourself that you have objective standards by which to measure. Focus on the deliverables rather than the person.

Consider your baggage (and theirs)

Sometimes the negative feeling can be completely illogical: The dislike may stem from things totally outside work. He or she may have mannerisms like your older brother that you resent or an ex-spouse that you detest.

You may have different political views or religious backgrounds that create barriers. You may decide that the conflict arises because your work ethic comes from two different eras or different upbringings.

When you decide that any of this baggage is contributing to your negative vibes about this person, it’s time to check your bags — intentionally. Just as you check your bags before boarding for take-off, realize that your goal is to get to the destination.

Make up your mind to check those emotions to get the job done. Your goal: project completion, team unity, profitability — not necessarily friendship.

As with teaching students, leading an army, or governing a country, make your leadership bigger than any one person or emotion.

This article originally appeared on the Booher Research Institute blog.