Strong relationships are at the heart of effective collaboration. But building positive relationships with difficult co-workers requires effort. The adjustment, patience and work is worth it, helping create good vibes and encouraging everyone to work together in harmony.
Ways to get along with difficult people at work
Find common ground
Aligning on shared purpose and interests, professionally and personally, makes collaborating with people easier. Getting to know the colleague on a personal level, and finding common interests or opinions reduces dissonance. Coupled with conversations on shared professional commitments, including the positive mutual impacts of working together, can boost the common ground.
Accept people for who they are
Wanting to maintain minimal contact with an irksome personality is understandable. But it is impractical when there’s a possibility or desire to change teams or move around within the company, which may require close collaboration with the said individual. Focusing more on the person’s positive personality traits and admirable qualities makes interacting and working with them less annoying.
A lack of clarity around roles can give rise to communication gaps and affect collaboration. When people are expected to ‘do their job’ without a clear idea of their tasks and responsibilities, they feel anxious at first- and over-time harbor resentment. This makes them difficult to work with. Setting clear expectations, encouraging open communication and embedding knowledge-sharing into the company culture attracts more cooperation, engagement and goodwill.
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Compassion fuels collaboration. Small things like getting to know a person better or taking note of their emotional well-being helps build and maintain good working relationships. Congratulating a difficult colleague for their work achievement and sharing in their disappointment after the loss of a client does its bit to create feelings of gratitude and warmth, which reflects in their attitude towards collaboration.
A feeling of being treated unfairly can be behind a freeze in relationships and make cooperation challenging. Maintaining objectivity through all situations keeps people from feeling let down. Examine the facts rather than turning to the prevalent feelings about a colleague. The consistently fair behavior will go a long way in thawing relations and encouraging everyone to get along.
Treat everyone equally
Inclusive team collaboration within business builds high-performance teams. Bringing together people from different backgrounds ushers’ new perspectives and ideas that make collaboration more interesting and enjoyable. It echoes that everyone has a voice and the opportunity to connect with people like them and unlike them. In an inclusive workplace, intentional listening with an open mind and questioning assumptions gradually become the norm, making it easier to deal with all types of colleagues.
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Encourage people to speak up
Why are some colleagues more difficult to work with than others? Most of the time, their attitudes are due to their perceptions about how their problems are going unheard or suggestions being ignored. A culture that makes airing views on work safe and encourages productive conversations, has fewer disgruntled workers that impede collaboration. Leaders have the opportunity to create a safe place for people to express their views and reward speaking up.
Motivate fresh thinking
More openness and debate leads to fresh thoughts, offering the chance to leave nagging worries and feelings behind. Think of ways to bring about a positive change in workplace dynamics. For example, support newcomers in meshing well with the team from the get-go, and encourage and appreciate their new ideas. Recognise long-timers’ strengths and give them opportunities to demonstrate their talents. Efforts to bring out the best in employees will improve any uncomfortable feelings and motivate collaboration.
Keep at it
Dealing with difficult colleagues and transforming a disempowering work environment into a highly motivating one is possible with the right strategies. Hybrid work and flexible work structures demand better collaboration, making persistent efforts at turning frustration into collaboration imperative.