How To Work With People You Just Don't Like
In my long and continuing academic career I have done many, many group projects. There was one that turned out well. Part of it was the prof wanted to simulate a job situation and allowed groups to fire people if they had just cause. I was blessed to be in a group where we all got along and all pulled our weight, but that was probably the first and only time I’ve been so lucky.
My professional life hasn’t been all rainbows and butterflies earlier. Most of my work experience comes from retail or being an assistant. The vast majority of people are really good. However, retail is retail and some people- particularly one boss I had- just don’t understand the difference between administrative assistant and personal servant.
I recently had a situation in my personal life where I had to work with some girls that I just didn’t gel with and it brought me back to that group project place. There’s never going to be a time when I won’t have to work with people and not everyone is going to be best friends right away. The best thing you can do is remember…
Tact will get you far.
It’s okay to have differing opinions. You don’t need to respect the person or their opinion but verging into a personal attack is only going to beget more personal attacks. Saying, “I’m not sure I agree with that.” will get you much farther than saying, “what are you smoking you vile idiot?”. On that note…
Treat people based on how you treat people, not based on how they’re treating you.
When you get delegated a little corner sitting on the floor while everyone else is having fun sitting at the table it feels really demoralizing. That’s not a metaphor, by the way, that happened. It’s natural to want to lash out. Lord knows I wanted to make a bit of a scene and point out how badly I was being treated. The thing is, in that situation I couldn’t come up with a way it would come across well, and I don’t think it would have changed anything. It would have been three against one with me being the one who spoiled the day and the fact that I would mess with someone’s joy like that would have said more about me than the girls who were being mean. When it comes to a bad boss or classmate there’s usually official channels you can go through. I once had a french prof who told me to shut up in front of the entire class. It was rude and out of line so I found the appropriate channels and filed a grievance with the school. I could have lashed out at him personally or dragged him through the mud, but again, all that would have done is… well, nothing. Dealing with it through the proper channels made both of us better, stronger people.
Remember it’s temporary.
For me I literally got to go home to another country where I wouldn’t have to risk even running into them ever again. It’s a bit tougher in a work situation because well, paying rent is a thing. Even in the worst job though, you can always apply for a new one. Even if it takes years to find something better if you’re at least trying to change your fate it becomes a lot more tolerable.
It’s okay to get upset
Working with people you don’t like is upsetting, so yeah, sometimes you’ll get upset. Give yourself a time limit and just let yourself feel everything. Need to vent? Call someone who you trust and, most importantly, does not know anyone involved. If you keep pushing things down eventually it’ll all bubble up in the worst possible way so let yourself feel it and let it pass.
I’m so happy I’m out of that situation but I know it’s not the last time I’ll be put in an awkward situation. The best thing to do is take a deep breath and try to learn something.