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How to get on with people you don’t like

People behave the way they do for two main reasons - they don’t know any other way of behaving or they believe that that behaviour gets the outcomes they want. Managers are likely to come across at least one employee whose behaviour they don’t like, with whom they don’t see eye to eye, or whom they dislike for some other reason. The challenge resides with managers. Are they flexible enough to bring about desired changes in the employee and the relationship? Here are a few considerations...

1. Try to be tolerant.

The fact that you don’t like certain employees should not be allowed to affect the way you relate to them. You have to be tolerant and positive in your attitude toward such people. Try to adopt a relaxed, confident, easygoing style to demonstrate that you are not put off by people who can be hard to get on with.

2. Practise liking people.

Will Rogers adopted the famous line ‘I never met a man I didn’t like’ as his way of getting on with people. Other successful ways include these:

  • Create opportunities to recognise an individual’s achievements.
  • Remember people’s names.
  • Treat all people with respect.
  • Concentrate only on the work context.
  • Focus on the person’s good points; don’t be too critical. Remember Richard Burton’s description of Elizabeth Taylor: ‘Her arms are too fat, her legs are too short, she is too big in the bust, she has an incipient double chin, and she has a slight pot belly’. He still married her - twice.

3. Be flexible about how you respond to the behaviour of others.

If you learn to be flexible in the way you react to difficult people, you’ll learn to live with their unpleasantness. The secret is to choose an appropriate response to particular behaviours. For example:

  • If the person always reacts aggressively, give responsibility and encourage ownership.
  • If the person carries a personal grudge, avoid discussions about pet peeves.
  • If the person never admits being in the wrong, avoid direct criticism, sarcasm, and ridicule. Deal with the problem in private.
  • If the person is argumentative, stay calm and cite hard facts and figures to present an alternative position.
  • If the person is overtalkative, have someone ‘interrupt’ you at a prescribed time, or plead another appointment, or start to move away.
  • Practise tact - the ability to rub out another’s faults instead of rubbing them in.
  • For additional examples and advice, consult 'How to deal with difficult people' (Topic 122).

Please note, this is only a small part of the topic.
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