How to Manage Employees You Can’t Stand

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It happens. You have at least one employee who does amazing work. There’s no doubt that this individual is an asset to the company. But … you dislike him.

He interacts well with everyone else in the office. But for some reason, the two of you bump heads. Could it be personal?

How do you remain professional while managing an employee that you personally can’t stand? Here are some tips:

1. Undergo a Self-Examination

Is it that this person is annoying? Do they remind you of your high school archenemy? Might it be that there’s something you dislike about yourself that you see in this person?

If you objectively assess the situation, beginning with yourself, you can better find a solution. This shift in mindset is the first step toward changing the dynamic of this relationship.

2. Understand Your Impact

Your demeanor affects your employees’ levels of productivity. If you dislike a specific employee, this person (and everyone else in the office) probably knows it. Even the most talented employee’s performance can suffer if they feel their supervisor doesn’t like them.

NYU research suggests that an employee’s sense of perceived organizational support (POS) is contingent upon the number of positive encounters they’ve had with direct supervisors. Your position represents the company. Employees view your approval as a nod from the entire organization.

3. Respect Individual Differences

You won’t like everyone. And not everyone will like you. They don’t teach you that in kindergarten, but it’s the truth.

It’s okay if you aren’t personally fond of an employee, but if you find yourself in constant conflict with this person and it is negatively impacting the company culture, you may need to take a step back.

FieldAccept that while this isn’t the person you’d like to have over for dinner, this is a person. The employee you can’t stand has feelings and significant worth as a human being – just the same as you do.

Consider composing a list of five positive attributes you’ve observed in this employee. Is it the way he interacts with coworkers, his approach to assignments, or something else? Review this list whenever you need to remind yourself of why this employee is a valuable member of your team.

4. Focus on the Work

Another way to avoid highlighting what you dislike about the person is to choose to put a spotlight on how his work benefits the company.

Searching for a solution is less draining than focusing on the problem. Allow this employee’s work, not your attitude, to influence your interactions. Acknowledge and reward his contributions. Encourage him to keep performing well.

Not doing so can negatively impact his productivity. Even more, his absentee rate can increase if he subconsciously wants to experience less of your wrath. Employees arrive to work on time and clock in and out for lunch and breaks according to schedule when they have positive relationships with their supervisors.

5. Be the Example: Manage Yourself Well

You’re a leader in the company. Offer an example of how employees are to interact with one another – whether they like each other or not. Likability does not precede respect.

Factor in emotional intelligence. You don’t have to yell at a person to communicate disdain. Rolling your eyes, folding your arms, or standing too great a distance away from him as he speaks are all things that communicate your disinterest. Be mindful of your body language and vocal tone when interacting with an employee you find annoying.

Create a system for yourself. Do you need to take a deep breath, count to five, and then gently smile when you pass this person in the hallway? How will you prepare for meetings with this person? Do you need to assign performance evaluations to another manager in order to remain unbiased?

Your interactions with this employee are well within your control. When you respect the person you can’t stand, his coworkers will take note. Eventually, they will follow suit when they find themselves in similar situations.

Bad hires are costly. Retain top talent by treating employees with respect, whether you like them or not.

Patrick Barnett is a Licensed Investigator (CA Bureau of Security) with more than 12 years of investigative experience. He is senior investigative manager with Advanced Research Systems.

By Patrick Barnett