How can a leader work with someone he or she doesn’t like?
The following answers are provided by members of Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.
1. Look for Something You Respect About Them
Although it can be hard to work with someone you don’t like, it’s nearly impossible to have a good working relationship with someone you don’t respect. Sometimes the two are tied closely together. So get clear on the real issue. If it’s a respect thing, look for something about the other person you can admire, even if it’s non-work related like him or her being a great parent or painter.
2. Get Clear on What’s in It for You
It’s absolutely inevitable that you’ll need to work with others who are good performers but who you don’t care for personally. The key as a business owner is to get clear on why they (and you) are there. “Jim may be a University of Michigan fan, but he is our top salesperson so I’ll let it slide.” Your job is to make sure your team performs, not to make sure you have drinking buddies.
3. Find Common Ground
If you look hard enough, you’ll always be able to find some common ground between you and someone you don’t like. Take the time and make the effort to find something you can relate to. It’s hard work, but worth the effort when you can manage everyone on equal terms. Also realize that likeability doesn’t equate to productivity or work well done. Decide what’s more important.
4. Weigh the Costs and Benefits
In some cases, likeability should be a dealbreaker. Leaders should examine why they don’t like somebody because many times the costs far outweigh the benefits. I’ve always hired for attitude first: The right type of person can learn almost anything, but attitude rarely changes. Leaders should know that negative people are contagious, and even star performers shouldn’t be forgiven for having a poor outlook and spreading it to the team.
5. Stick to the Professional
Most likely it’s about a personality conflict. If I don’t like someone, I dismiss this from the equation. I’m there to work with them, not socialize with them. I can work around personality quirks that I don’t like by focusing on the need to get work done. This helps me put the personal aside and stick to the professional.
6. Learn From Them
If you are having a tough time working with someone, change your mindset and make it a learning experience. You can always learn something from someone, regardless of their level in the business. The more you focus on what you can learn from this person, the more you may find out how to properly manage and work with them.
7. Don’t Fake It
Have an open and blunt conversation that establishes that you may not see eye to eye, but you do need to work together and collaborate. Call out when you feel there is tension, but make sure to reiterate that differing opinions lead to a better outcome. And create a structured way to deal with conflict and always keep the focus on creating better outcomes.
8. Set Boundaries
If it is apparent that both leaders may not have warm feelings toward one another, be sure to set up conversational boundaries, specific agendas and an agreed-upon third party to settle any work-related disputes that cannot be compromised on.
9. Focus on the Work
It can be difficult working with someone you don’t like, but in certain situations there isn’t any other option. A leader is always focused on the end result, and working with someone you don’t like should be dealt with in the same manner. Focusing on work and the end results serves as a great distraction. Eventually, one may even forget they disliked the person and begin liking them.
10. Look at Yourself First
Often the things we dislike most in other people are the things we actually don’t like about ourselves! It’s important to honestly examine why we are holding negativity towards the employee and see if it’s because they are reflecting something back at us. When we do this first we can have far more compassion toward them and ourselves and create a better working relationship.