How Can I have Harmony With Colleagues I Dislike?

A lot rides on getting along with colleagues at work. Your emotional wellbeing in the workplace affects what you ‘hear’ (read: interpret) from your colleagues, which in turn affects how you respond to them. When you have uncertainty with a workplace relation, you end up ‘hearing’ your own version of what they say – which is often very different to the original! (“Whatcha talking ‘bout willis?”)

It’s on your mind constantly, repetitively going over the ‘yuck’ feeling of that relationship. And as you continue to re-live the relationship ‘issue,’ you think you are in the process of solving it. Guess what? You’re not. You are just keeping the story in the tabloids.

So let’s look at this another way. Do you always have harmony with people you do like? Be honest with yourself here. I asked one of my clients, a manager of many people in a public business, these three questions and these are her responses:

Why do you want to have harmony with colleagues that you dislike?

“Because without harmony I feel that we are not relating. I cannot understand why they are thinking and acting the way they are. Without harmony I feel that we are working towards different goals – this causes ongoing frustration for myself and them. I want to be able to work towards the same goals with them. And I want the process to be one based on synergy. I want to have harmony with them so that I feel better instead of feeling stressed, angry and frustrated all the time.”

Why do you dislike these colleagues?

“I dislike these colleagues because I feel they are not committed to the same goals as I am. I sense that they are thinking only of their own interests and are not interested in working together to achieve something bigger. I dislike the manner in which they communicate – I want them to be honest and upfront. I dislike their lack of integrity and their poor work ethics. I dislike them because they are not willing to compromise or understand my point of view.”

Do you have harmony with people you like?

“I think that you like people because you have harmony with them. It is easier to become friends with people you understand and can relate to – people you are harmonious with. It is much harder to become friends with someone who is the exact opposite of you. To do so you need to accept that you don’t quite understand them but are willing to appreciate them anyway. And they must be willing to extend the same courtesy to you.”

The Symptoms…

1. There is someone in the workplace that you don’t like. You don’t like them because of their personality, because of the way they treat you, because of the way they speak to you, because of their unreasonable workflow expectations, because they are demanding, because they are always negative about changes or just because!

2. When you dislike someone in the workplace and you do not work to resolve it, then everything that person does will be added to your basket of reasons to support your view of them. This means you are no longer able to be objective. This does not serve you, the other person or your organisation.

3. When we get upset with someone in the workplace, we feel so right to be upset that we want to tell everyone about it. As we do, we find even more reasons to be right (surprisingly) and the story of Being Right becomes practiced, rehearsed and dotted with quotes from the audience with who we shared our story.

4. When our buttons are pushed or our expectations not met, our emotional response can kick in before we’ve had a chance to check in our luggage (that baggage we carry with us all day, every day).

Did you notice that I only spoke about YOU?!

Turn it around

Mr Emotional Intelligence (or E.Q) Daniel Coleman says that there was an emotional brain long before there was a rational one. It was handy back in the good old days to react instinctively and impulsively to a feeling of danger. Back in those days we could sense a dinosaur approaching long before we could see it. That’s our old brain at work. But now we don’t want our old brain at work!

How to create harmony with people we don’t like:

Observation 1: Own it. Our reaction is ours. It doesn’t matter how our buttons were pushed; the point is that we had the invisible button displayed on our vests and someone accidentally (or even purposely) pushed it. Yet it’s ours to display, and our responsibility to control.

Observation 2: Don’t take it personally. It’s never about us, really. It may be about overcoming what we represent but never personal.

Observation 3: Take responsibility and create what you want. Don’t wait for it to happen.

How do we start practicing these observations?

1. Step back. Become aware of yourself and get to know your behaviours – you are more than your behaviours (thanks Tony) – so don’t get caught up with your reactions. We simply need to become aware of ourselves. That and that alone has the power to transform us as we begin to focus on ourselves and not on the behaviours of others.

2. Be fair. Really. I’m going to say that again. Be fair to others. Give them the benefit of the doubt and practice Covey’s habit no.5: Seek first to understand the other. Do not seek to be understood first. We do that so very well, ignoring the other, speaking louder and talking over them to be heard. Watch what happens to your workplace relationships when you practice the opposite of that.

3. Check in with yourself when someone has annoyed you or pushed your button. Write it out on a piece of paper, identifying the issue and then deal with it, not simply their behaviour.

Creating harmonious relationships in the workplace begins with creating harmonious relationships with ourselves. Get to know yourself, your behaviours, your beliefs and your values. Observe your thoughts, those automatic emotional reactions to any stimulus, and you will discover that there is a better version of you waiting to go to work. If you don’t, Maslow will have the last words: “if you plan on being anything less than you are capable of being, you will probably be unhappy all the days of your life.”

 Appearing in this article:

Tony Robbins Unleashing his good words

Daniel Coleman His book Emotional Intelligence – get it!

Stephen Covey Making life a habit of good practice – and there are 7 habits.

Abraham Maslow Love this man.

Arnold Jackson Snuck in here to remind us to have some fun. A little guy from a T.V show called Different Strokes.

Anonymous Client Thank you – you know who you are, but like the toothpaste advertisement, we can’t show you her face – sorry.


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