Workplace Anxiety: Getting Along When You Don't Get Along

Where is the line in the sand?

We have to work and live with people. 

No, you cannot act as singular overlord to your robot minions. At least, not yet, and while that day may come sooner rather than later, you still have to work with me. And them. And him, and all of the others you disagree with, don’t like and just can’t stand.

So how do we do it? How do we create and coalesce workplace teams and community with people we just don’t get along with? We need to figure it out, and quickly, since flexibility/adaptability and working effectively in teams are the #1 & #3 items on employers “must have” skills list according to a new survey by IBM

The most complex and simple answer to the question is that we need to interact with people in order to learn how to interact with people. Soft skills aren’t easy to teach in a classroom with a slide show, a monotone presenter and a few dry sandwiches. Nope. Soft skills require people

If you want to learn how to get along with difficult people, you have to practice. You have to try, repeatedly, to cross the divide. To begin, understand the difference between don’t get along with and can’t work with

If you don’t get along with someone, maybe there’s a personality clash. You rub each other the wrong way. Maybe you don’t like the way they speak to you, or they’ve snagged your clearly-marked lunch out of the break-room fridge. Whatever the difficulty, you can (and must) find a way to tolerate/accept/revise-your-view of the person in order to accomplish the shared goals. It won’t be easy, because hey, XYZ person is a jackass and you just don’t like them. 

Here’s the thing, not everyone is for everyone. It’s not wrong to not like someone. Nobody can tra-la-la through life and expect to like everyone and to be liked by everyone. Humans aren’t built like that. What we can do in this bigger picture, is allow ourselves to let go of liking someone so that we can go ahead and work with them. The two are not, necessarily, mutual. 

The tougher problem is with someone you can’t work with. Let’s be clear, this means you are unable to create with this person. You’ve learned through time and experience that the two of you together are a combustable, toxic, unprofitable and uncommunicative combination, regardless of how you’ve built bridges and tried to span the chasm between you. The situation is untenable. If this is absolutely, positively the case, you have only a couple of options - the first being find another job. If you’re put in a situation where you must work with someone (including a supervisor) that you absolutely, positively are unable to work with, get the hell out. The other alternative is an HR route - asking for a transfer, a different report or a different departmental structure, etc., so that you can continue to work within the company but not with XYZ person. If that’s not possible, see option A above. 

Time is the main component in learning how to work with others. Great leadership and an awesome structure that make you feel valuable and validated are parts of the mix. AND, it may be time to put on your big person pants and get real about being open to points of view vastly different from your own - understanding and empathy are vital soft skills that go along with profitable teamwork. 

So, until the robot uprising (and maybe after…?), welcome to the world. Give peace a chance. And if that doesn’t work for you, keep in mind you can learn as much, or more, from a negative situation as you can from a positive. 

LB Adams is the Founder of Practical Dramatics, headquartered in Charleston, SC.  Her company happily offers team building training. You may to do some weird stuff, but it’s worth it. To learn more about growing profitable conversations, reach out to us at 843-771-0753.