Setting Aside Differences: 12 Considerations When Working With Someone You Don’t Like

Not everyone gets along, but there are times you’ll need to work with people you’d prefer not to. What is the best thing to remember when working with someone you don’t necessarily like?

Regular employee meeting

These answers are provided by Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most successful young entrepreneurs. YEC members represent nearly every industry, generate billions of dollars in revenue each year and have created tens of thousands of jobs. Learn more at

1. Be Civil and Professional

Professionalism is all about maintaining civil and productive relationships with people you might not like. It’s better to work with people we enjoy being around, but businesses don’t bring us together because we have compatible personalities. They bring us together to achieve specific goals, and that means maintaining the same standards of civility whether we like colleagues or not. – Chris Madden, Matchnode

2. Set Boundaries

It’s important to remain professional with your colleagues, but that doesn’t mean you can’t set boundaries in place to protect your personal space. You can put a sign on your cubicle that asks not to be disturbed or have a short discussion with your coworkers about needing time to yourself to concentrate and be productive. – Jared Atchison, WPForms

3. Focus on the Shared Goal

By keeping your mind and attitude focused on the goal rather than the individual you have to work with, you will shift your energy from dreading working with the individual to accomplishing an important objective. You’ll also realize that it’s not about either of you or your relationship — it’s about reaching that goal. – Ryan D Matzner, Fueled

4. Remember Everyone Plays a Role

The most important thing I tell myself to remember is that who a person is personally and who they are professionally are separate. You should not get personally offended by the actions this person takes to complete their job, because odds are they care as much as you for your brand. Most importantly, they might have different talents to yours that can help the company succeed. – Chelsea Rivera, Honest Paws

Having serious business conversation
photo credit: Daniel Schildt / Flickr

5. Look for an Opportunity to Learn

It can be challenging to work with people you don’t like. The trick is to look for something that you can learn from that person or the task. Finding that something can help you turn a situation that is frustrating into one that helps you learn a new skill or methodology by exposing a silver lining. I’m always surprised where the skills I’ve learned in situations like this can help down the road. – Yaniv Masjedi, Nextiva

6. Focus on the Greater Mission

Be patient and focus on the greater mission. Visualize your customers or clients and what their problems are that you are solving collectively. With this in mind, use patience and professionalism to avoid any kind of conflict. Keep in mind that someone could be experiencing severe stress in their personal life, causing them to act a certain way. When in doubt, give them the benefit of the doubt. – Jared Polites, LaunchTeam

7. De-Escalate With Positivity

Take a page out of Dale Carnegie’s book and choose to be nonreactive. Working with people you don’t get along with is an inevitability in business. Accept that you may not be able to change the situation, but you can choose not to escalate it. Do not speak negatively of your coworker or provoke confrontation — instead, take the opportunity to practice empathy and forgiveness, then simply move on. – Amine Rahal, Little Dragon Media

8. Find Common Ground

If you don’t like someone, ask why. Maybe it’s something easy, like they’re always late to meetings. Maybe it’s about something harder, like their personality. If it’s simpler, have an honest discussion about what bothers you (at times a manager may be a better route). If more personality-related, then find something in common and you may forget why you disliked the person in the first place. – David Roger, Felix Gray

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9. Take Ownership

What you don’t like about another person might be a reflection of something you don’t like about yourself. Consider what specifically it is about that person that bothers you and then see how you can change that in yourself first. If they are always late to meetings, or not finishing work on time — do you ever do that? Take the ownership back on yourself. – Jared Weitz, United Capital Source Inc.

10. Ignore Your Annoyance

If your coworker isn’t rude or violating any rules, then you need to learn how to ignore your annoyance and deal with it. You’re not going to like everyone you meet, much less the people in your office, and that’s OK. We don’t all have to be friends. We just have to be respectful and cordial in the workplace. Whenever you feel irritated by someone, choose to ignore it and move on. – Stephanie Wells, Formidable Forms

11. Keep an Open Mind

Any relationship or interaction has at least two parties to it. Sometimes, your own actions may play a role in a coworker’s behavior. It’s a good idea not to judge the person you dislike too harshly and to keep an open mind. You can learn more about them, which helps you to understand them better. Also, reflect on your own behavior to find out if you’ve contributed to a difficult relationship. – Blair Williams, MemberPress

12. Remember You Don’t Know the Whole Story

If you find yourself working with someone that bothers you, try to remember that you likely do not know the whole story. There is so much going on behind the scenes in everyone’s personal life that sometimes we all just need to be given a little slack. If someone bothers you, do everyone a favor and keep your space, do your work and know that there may be more going on than what you see. – Rana Gujral, Behavioral Signals