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Our workplace is one of the places where we spend most hours during the day. There are many different factors which determine whether one is happy at their workplace or not. One of the most important factors includes the people a person has to work with. With time, some colleagues become friends, people you enjoy socialising with outside the workplace. You might also develop special relationships with some colleagues who become trusted friends with whom you can confide. These colleagues become more like a family. However, it can also easily happen that we have colleagues whom we cannot stand. No matter what they do it bothers us and identifying any positive qualities they might possess seems like an impossible task. You might not work frequently with this type of colleague and therefore can manage to avoid them as much as possible. However, these colleagues may well be your team members and have to work together constantly. What do you do in such situations? Whilst you cannot change someone, you need to find a way to deal with them. The following are some ideas.

Documentation – If you work with a colleague who keeps changing versions of what you had agreed upon, document such information. Following a meeting, you can send an email with the main points that were discussed and agreed. In this way, you are covering yourself so that if the other person has either misunderstood or lies you have proof to show.

Reflection – You may need to take some time to reflect on why this colleague annoys you so much. Sometimes when you dislike someone it also says something about you. For example, if the other person has a habit of criticising you and you feel very annoyed about this behaviour, it could be because as a child you were also criticised. Thus, the other person’s criticism makes you feel in touch with such emotions. The attribute you dislike about them might also be an attribute you possess and which you would like to change.

Connection – The colleague you dislike might be going through a difficult phase so they could be venting their frustration. Although this can seem unfair to you, trying to be more emphatic with the other person can lead to an improvement in the relationship. Try to find out if you have anything in common so that when you need to work together at least you can converse about something you both enjoy.

Objectivity – You do not need to be friends but you still need to be polite. Embarrassing them or gossiping about them with other colleagues is not okay. Maintaining a professional attitude is important.

Listening – With colleagues you do not like, you may need to listen more and talk less. If every time the other person talks you want to say the opposite of what they are saying, it would be better to talk less. You might be going against them just because of who they are rather than because of what they are saying. If you need to vent about them, do so with your friends or family.

It is very unlikely to end up in a workplace where you like all your colleagues, so learning how to deal with the ones that you do not like can make your life a little bit easier.

Dr Marilyn Muscat is registered as an Educational Psychologist with the Health and Care Professions Council in the United Kingdom where she trained. She works with children, adolescents and their families to understand more about educational, social and emotional well-being concerns that they have and to help them improve upon their difficulties. She can be contacted on marilyn@willingness.com.mt or call us on 79291817.