Help! I’m Working With People I Don’t Like!

Office Space Picture_Fish At Desk

Even the folks who rave about loving their job can sometimes find themselves unfortunately working with people they don’t like. Some may say it doesn’t really matter whether you like your co-workers. What matters is your ability to work with them professionally. I agree, that we may not always like the individuals with whom we work, but it is often better when we do. Interestingly, sometimes work relationships take on an almost familial form of dysfunction. People have learned, however, that at work they have more options to turn an unfavorable work environment into something more favorable, even if that requires changing jobs.


How can I remedy a co-worker’s annoying habits?

That’s a tall order. If there were a magic wand to offer as a solution I bet your colleague might be waving it over your head too. Interestingly enough, just as we have complaints about our co-workers others may have concerns about our work habits. Rather than focus on changing our co-workers it may be more valuable to understand what we can do to contribute to a more harmonious and collaborative environment.


What can I do to create a more favorable work place?


Invite People To Join The Team. Overall, if you feel where you work is a good place to work, your boss is fair, and you get to contribute in a meaningful way, invite folks you trust and would want to work with to join the team. Encourage them to apply for openings. Share their resume with the recruiting team, your boss, other leaders and decision makers. This is your chance to help influence who’s on the team.


Put It In Perspective. A public challenge to your opinion may not be a co-worker’s attempt to undermine you. It may just be that they have another perspective, and that’s okay. We each have to be open to another way of looking at a situation. Bottom-line, recognize what is a preference or personal concern versus an unacceptable behavior. Don’t expect to love every co-worker and end the day singing Kumbya. It’s more important to:

  • Enjoy the work that you do
  • Believe that overall you’re working with capable people who do good work
  • Feel that your contribution makes a positive difference


Office Space_Bad Boss

Take appropriate and timely action. When co-workers behave inappropriately it’s important to address the issue. If it bothers you enough to think about it for a prolonged period and possibly consult with colleagues about it, then you probably need to find an appropriate solution. Assess whether thoughtfully confronting the person about the behavior will make a difference. You have to determine whether working in the current environment is worth it. Ask yourself, is it time to find a place more deserving of your commitment?

What are tips for handling some common problems people have experienced at work?

Following are three typical situations we often receive questions about:

  • Strange smells & gross habits at work can affect concentration and one’s desire to get work done. Whatever the cause, it is especially important to be sensitive and respectful when addressing concerns related to body odor, unusual food smells, flatulence, lice, coughing, or even snorting. Addressing these types of concerns requires:
  • Compassion
  • Direct, simple, and respectful communication
  • Privacy

Having a positive relationship with the individual may allow you to safely and respectfully share your observation privately. If not, ask your boss to help. Be open to challenges as additional information may shift your perspective about the matter.

  • Using profanity at work is typically viewed as “unprofessional”. Most people recognize that things can sometimes get heated, especially when we’re passionate about a topic. There is a distinct difference between letting profanity slip and actually addressing someone using profane language. I had a coaching client who recently shared that a co-worker cursed him out for asking about an event. The individual was the owner’s sister-in-law and was known for her abusive behavior. In this instance it was an unfortunate and hurtful experience, but it was also a situation where the individual did not feel safe confronting the behavior. The organization did not have any stated protocols for reporting such concerns outside of leaving the job. In this instance the individual made the decision to look for another job.
  • My boss makes me feel uncomfortable. One of the saddest situations I dealt with involved a young woman whose boss regularly spoke negatively about her to others in the business. Despite positive performance evaluations the individual felt uncomfortable at work, especially after peers shared specific remarks her manager was allegedly making about her. This is a difficult situation, which ultimately resulted in the woman leaving the organization, however, if she had felt comfortable broaching the topic with her boss there may have been a different outcome. In this scenario to create a more positive work environment an individual may need to:
  • Assess the relationship with the boss – do you trust him/her and believe he/she is open to your concern(s)
  • Understand the company’s policies and procedures for raising a concern and reaching a resolution
  • Be aware of your responsibility in creating the desired outcome


Have you worked effectively through challenging interactions at work? Share your tips for successfully creating a more positive work environment.  Consilium Human Capital is a Strategic Business Partner of Profiles International. We provide information that enables individuals, business owners, and executives to make better decisions about people. To learn more email us at