I hate my coworkers
I hear it all the time. You can’t stand your coworker. He or she has stabbed you in the back. They’ve thrown you under the bus. They’re passive aggressive. They’re mean. They just don’t “get it.” They always get in the way.
Hanging onto those feelings towards the people that you have to be around for eight hours a day, five days a week, does you absolutely no good. Here are some steps to begin resolving the situation.
What makes you think I hate my coworkers?
Let’s go back to the beginning. What happened? I’m sure you didn’t walk in on day one, just hate the look of the person, and it was all downhill from there. Really work to get some clarity on why there’s not a better working relationship between the two of you. What did they say to you? What did they do? When was it? What context was it in? There’s a huge difference between someone that just rubs you the wrong way and someone that verbally assaults you at a staff meeting.
Your goal is not to perpetuate the situation. Your goal is to fix it. Sit down and actually make a list of what’s gone wrong so that you can be more objective about it. When we have negative emotions about someone, sometimes that means that we take incidents that are isolated events that, frankly, weren’t that big of a deal and blow them up in our heads over time. Your list is not for you to share with others, or to turn into HR or anything like that – anytime you go to HR to try to solve issues like this, it will probably be woefully unsuccessful. This is simply an exercise to help you get internal clarity.
Try giving them the benefit of the doubt.
You are always in control of the perspective you bring to any situation – you are making the choice to think I hate my coworkers. Now that you have your list and you know what you think is driving the wedge between the two of you, try considering other perspectives. They’ve done something (or perhaps many things) that you don’t like. I want you to ask yourself what other explanations there could be for their behavior.
- Could they be under pressure that you don’t know about from their boss?
- Could they be sick or depressed or have something physically wrong with them that you can’t see?
- Could they be having trouble at home? Is there something going on with their family?
- Could they have just been yelled at by a co-worker in a meeting that you weren’t in?
- Could they just not realize how their behavior is coming across?
The list could go on and on. The point of the exercise is to consider other potential causes of their behavior towards you that have nothing to do with you. Because most of the time it probably has nothing to do with you! The point is that when we behave badly towards other people, it very rarely has to do with a negative intention towards that person – it has to do with ourselves. You don’t need to know exactly what happened. You just need to open the door to consider that there was no negative intention.
We are all victims of victims. That means that the way we perceive ourselves, and the way we interact with others is largely based on what has happened to us in the past, as far back as childhood. People are fundamentally imperfect, and they can very easily pass on those imperfections in the way of their behavior towards others without realizing the damage they are doing. Effectively they are repeating what has been done to them.
So give people a break. Even if they did exactly what you think they did, they are probably not doing it out of malice towards you. There is always a chance that they are, but most of the time, people behave badly towards others for reasons that have to do with their own stress, anxiety, and fear. This is a classic case of “it’s not you, it’s them.”
This is not to excuse their behavior – it’s to put it in it’s proper context.
Here’s the hard part: Let the past go.
We live in the present and we can’t go back and change the past. The only thing we can do is move forward to a better tomorrow. For that reason, I want you to try to let what’s happened in the past go. You are not hurting your coworker by hanging onto it. You’re just hurting yourself, and preventing yourself from being as effective and happy as you could be at work.
This is one of the hardest things to do in the world…but in some ways, it’s also the easiest. Just let it go. Move on. If neither you or your co-worker has any intention of quitting your jobs, then something has got to give to turn the situation around and make it better for all involved. Someone has to take the first step. You don’t lose anything by being the person to do it.
Here’s your homework.
The next time you go into work, you should invite the person you can’t stand out to lunch. Get outside of the office in neutral territory, preferably a more laid back environment where you can both be comfortable.
If they accept your invitation, I don’t want you to use it as an opportunity to launch into everything that you think is wrong with them, or take them to ask on all the items on your list. In fact, I don’t want you to talk much at all. Instead, ask them lots of questions. How are they doing? What are they working on? How do they feel about it? How can you help them? Your best case scenario is that you come out of that lunch giving them a win on something they care about. That’s how great working relationships are built. You could even get to know them on a more personal level if they’re open to it – the more vulnerable you both can be with each other, the more psychological safety you’ll create. That’s a good thing – psychological safety is critical to effective teamwork.
What if it doesn’t work? Well, it won’t always! But at least you’ve taken the first step and opened the door. Maybe they say “no” the first time you ask them to lunch. Well, wait a few weeks and try again! Or maybe the lunch doesn’t go so well and they answer all of your questions with a one-word answer. Look, they’re probably going to be suspicious of this! Think about how you would feel if someone that you couldn’t stand invited you out for lunch. It’s going to throw you off balance! They’re probably feeling the same thing. This is not the end of the conversation – it’s just the beginning. This is the type of thing that may not work the first time you try it. But don’t give up – keep trying and giving them opportunities to break down whatever wall has gone up. Be the bigger person, and maintain your perspective as long as they are not doing anything to actively hurt you at work.
Remember, it’s all about relationships.
You’re not going to be best friends with everyone you work with, and that’s OK. But your experience at work is going to be so much better if you have a functional relationship with the people that you interact with on a regular basis. My number one principle of office politics is that people do not behave logically and rationally – they make decisions emotionally, and then they justify them rationally. That means how someone feels about you has a dramatic impact on the way they perceive your work. If they like you, they are going to perceive everything you do in a better light. If they don’t like you, then they will perceive things more negatively than they really should. It’s in your best interest to have your relationships put together, and will only mean good things for you.
There’s no need to think I hate my coworkers every day
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