You don’t need to be friends with everyone on your team, but you do need to get along — at least well enough to work together. But sometimes, there’s that one coworker who just rubs you the wrong way. Maybe they’re a complainer or a chronic obstructionist; maybe they’re lazy, or inconsiderate of their cubicle neighbors, or just plain rude.
Whatever the problem, the fact is that you can’t stand this person. You also still have to work with them. Here’s how to cope with that coworker you hate … without compromising your professionalism:
Take a Deep Breath
Whether it’s through mindful meditation or just taking a minute to think about your feelings before you act on them, pausing before you say something you’ll regret is a good idea in any situation.
We don’t always need to express every emotion. Maybe the sound of someone clipping their nails in the cube next door drives you nuts, but getting up and throwing a chair at them isn’t going to do any good. Try coming up with a method for calming down when you feel your ire rising. Counting down from 10, taking some breaths while you close your eyes and imagine a calm space, or even just taking a walk for a few minutes can do wonders for your blood pressure.
Get Ahead of Your Triggers
If the way a coworker acts drives you nuts, try to anticipate what might set you off. For example, maybe someone can’t deal well with criticism and tends to get grumpy after meetings that don’t go well. Make yourself scarce at those times and don’t plan any interactions with them. You can feed off of someone else’s bad mojo, so figuring out what makes you feel bad at work and avoiding that rotten vibe is a good idea.
At Mediate.com, professional mediator Lee Jay Berman notes that we don’t always take the time to think about our own feelings during conflict at work.
“When a conflict arises, one of the most beneficial things you can do is to ask yourself, ‘What might I be bringing to the dispute?,'” Berman suggests.
“We can usually look at another person and figure that maybe he/she had a conflict at home or that he/she has been under tremendous pressure,” he adds. “However, we are not usually self-aware enough to ask ourselves what we might have going on. It is important in avoiding later embarrassment by checking in with our own personal boiling point before responding.”
Talk to Them
Sometimes, the only solution is to talk it out — in a polite and grownup way, of course. You never know what you might discover. Getting the other person’s perspective might defuse the conflict entirely. Someone’s “angry face” might just be the way they look when deep in thought, not a sneer at your suggestions. Try to get to the bottom of the matter, and you might just get to a good place, not an emotional one.
Tell Us What You Think
What’s your best/worst coworker story? We want to hear from you. Tell us your thoughts in the comments or talk to us on Twitter.