You won’t always get along with your coworkers.
And, in modern open plan offices or even cubicle-style work environments, avoiding an annoying coworker is about as easy as avoiding that pesky, prying neighbor. You just can’t.
Sometimes, the person who annoys you most is your assistant, your nearest colleague, or even your boss, which makes it impossible to evade everyday interaction.
But, is it at least possible to hide your discomfort and distain during these (ideally) brief moments of contact?
It is possible. However, like any learned skill, managing your reaction to triggers from an abrasive coworker takes practice.
This will ensure you put on a facial expression, demeanor, and tone while conversing with colleagues that remains even keel, even if you’re secretly put off.
Next, keep your opinion to yourself.
Distaste for a colleague is much like a distaste for an item of food. Nobody wants to take a spoonful of your meal after it’s prefaced, “Gross! Hey—do you want to try this? It’s terrible.”
Yet, so many people continue to subject their dates and friends to misprepared foods because they find it impossible to keep the experience to themselves.
When you do the same to a coworker—vilify them to another person in the office—you’ll leave a bad taste in everybody’s mouth.
Don’t forget how far and wide gossip can travel. The colleague who rubs you the wrong way will soon rub elbows with others privy to your disparaging chatter.
Also, don’t share your thoughts “Because emotions are so contagious, you can bring everyone down,” explains Robert Sutton, a professor of management science and engineering at Stanford University and the author of Good Boss, Bad Boss and The No Asshole Rule to the Harvard Business Review.
Complaining—even when merited—does not often reap fruitful gains.
Finally, it’s easier to work with somebody you hate when you get to know them better. Strike up an impromptu conversation. Learn about their past, pleasures, parents.
Endearing yourself to them may even open an opportunity to address the issues at hand. Once you’ve established a friendly rapport, it becomes easier to conduct uncomfortable criticisms.
Also, by forcing conversation with a colleague you hate, familiarity and acquaintance may help clear the air naturally. Not to mention, if you’ve disliked their behavior, it’s likely they’ve disliked yours, too.
In conversation, try to identify the root of the problem.
“When someone is doing better than us, we tend to scorn them,” says Sutton to the HBR.
“Our favorite person in the world is ourselves. The more different someone is from us, the more likely we are to have a negative reaction to them.”
Which is why, endearing yourself to an annoying colleague may demonstrate, once and for all, the problem was never them, it was you all along.