Manage Someone You Don’t Like By Working Closely With Them

Manage Someone You Don’t Like By Working Closely With Them

If you’ve been in a management position, you’ve possibly had to supervise someone who just rubs you the wrong way. Instead of avoiding them, try working with that person directly and they might annoy you less.

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The Harvard Business Review offers some tips on how to co-exist with someone you don’t like at work. You may not want to work closer with them, but that’s the reason you should:

It may sound like counterintuitive advice, but if you feel awkward, frustrated, or angry around one of your employees, you probably try to avoid her and may even struggle to make eye contact when you’re together. Imagine how demoralizing it can be for the employee whose boss won’t even look her in the eye!

To change the dynamic, you need to actually create more opportunities to be together, so you can get to know the person’s back-story. This will have two benefits: First, you’ll get used to her quirks, which will make you more comfortable with them. Second, you’ll learn about what makes her tick and how you can tap into those values as a source of motivation.

The two of you may not be best friends, but you’ll learn how to motivate the person and work with them. Check out the link for some other ways to create a working relationship with someone you don’t like.

How To Motivate Someone You Don’t Like [Harvard Business Review]


  • As an employee, my experience is that the approach named above is a gothic french nightmare for the targeted employee.

    The last thing I want ANYWHERE near me — again, based on multiple experiences, as I’m not 20 years old — is a manager who dislikes me, and brings all of his or her strong prejudices against me, to work that we’re doing. It adds stress, it adds emotional pain, it contributes to actual physical illness. Oh, and it makes me less able to meet team goals that I (read: so it’s gonna piss me off) and the manager (read: so it’s gonna piss them off) are measured by.

    The only reason I’d want a manager with a bad attitude toward me (“rubs you the wrong way” -> “you have an in-built bad attitude toward them because of it”) is if that person catches themselves out on it, or is caught out on it by their management, and openly decrees to me, “Gosh, I’m having trouble working with you. Let’s really work on it and see how we can improve it from BOTH of our perspectives.”

    In my experience, “learning the person’s back story” doesn’t improve things at all, and “getting to know their quirks” only provides more fodder for complaint by the manager against the employee. Much of the problem is that managers who feel that an employee “rubs them the wrong way” often have pretty severe issues of their own that prevent the kind of empathy that that recommendation seems to be trying to capitalise on. (If you’ve never had a psychopathic manager, congrats. Many can’t say the same.)

    Had this happen in uni 30 years ago, when I had a lab assistant job. Had it happen again at a major international tech employer 7 years ago, when I was one of the top performers on a high-stakes team. My recommendation on supervising employees that “rub you the wrong way” is to be as hands-off as you can be, because that does the least harm BOTH to the person and to the team’s productivity as a whole.

  • I imagine it would be more demoralising for an employee to have a manager constantly hanging over them than one that doesn’t make much eye contact.

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