Managing an employee who constantly rubs you the wrong way is a very challenging situation, but one that will arise. Even the most easy-going, diverse managers will at one point (probably more) have an employee that they simply don’t get along with. The best bet is to fire them. I kid, I kid. You can’t fire everyone that you dislike. Finding ways to make it work is worth it. For starters, if they’re actually good at their job, you need them. Secondly, you may be the only one with the issue, essentially making it a non-issue. Thirdly, high turnover due to annoyance is not a good look for any manager.
We’ve all been well versed on the importance of hiring for cultural fit, but it’s important to remember that you alone are not the culture. Furthermore, hiring clones of one’s self and a whole bunch of “yes-men”, won’t get business very far. Diversity should be met with open arms and thus innovation is born. Just because you rather poke your eye out than have them for dinner, doesn’t mean they’re bad for business; in fact, it could mean quite the opposite. Work would be pretty awesome to if you genuinely enjoyed everyone there, but an individual’s best interests are quite different from those of the company as a whole.
Amy Gallo, a contributing editor at the Harvard Business Review, brings us some interesting facts from the experts on this very subject in, “Managing Someone You Don’t Like.” Gallo said, “It’s neither possible –nor even ideal- to build a team comprised entirely of people you’d invite to a backyard barbecue.”
Turns Out, it’s a Good Thing!
Sure, they might be the Jim Halpert to your Dwight Schrute, but that’s actually a good thing. According to Robert Sutton, a professor of management science and engineering at Stanford University, “From a performance standpoint, liking the people you manage too much is a bigger problem than liking them too little.” Sutton argues the point that the employees who managers tend to like more, are the same employees who fail to challenge management, offer insights or give it to management straight. Sutton said, “You need people who have different points of view and aren’t afraid to argue. They are the kind of people who stop the organization from doing stupid things.” It looks like differences in the workplace can actually drive organizational success.
Start With Yourself
Gallo tells us to concentrate on ourselves for a bit. Find out why this person irritates you. What is it that they’re doing so wrong? Quite often, the answer isn’t about them, it’s about you. Ben Dattner, an organizational psychologist, instructs managers who find themselves in this situation to ask themselves the following three questions:
1) “Is the problem the individual, or someone they remind me of?”
2) “Am I afraid of being like this person?”
3) “Are they a member of a group that I have an issue with?”
This exercise is meant to help you figure out what your hot buttons and triggers are. As you learn to read yourself, you are better able to control your feelings and responses. You can’t change the individual that you take issue with, but you can change your perspective and attitude.
On the Vein of Starting With Yourself…
You may not like this person, but that doesn’t mean it’s acceptable to treat him/her differently. The individual may be a thorn in your side, but reacting to your feelings won’t help anything. When someone doesn’t like us, it’s obvious; we can feel it, even see it. A bad report will only result in the further demise of your working relationship. Dattner said, “Cultivating a diplomatic poker face is important. You need to be able to come across as professional and positive.”
Accentuate the Positive, Accentuate the Negative?
They’re the worst, but there is something good and likable about them. Focus on the their positive attributes and find ways to incorporate those into their work with you and others. Dattner said to, “Assume the best, focus on what they’re good at, and how they can help your team.” Dattner also instructs managers with this problem to acknowledge the flaws in those that they tend to favor; in order to create a more balanced workplace.
In closing, we gather a piece of advice from Linda Abraham, co-founder of comScores, “Hire people you respect, not necessarily people you like.” The diversity and challenge of working with people whom you do not get along with can actually benefit the organization.