Dear colleague, I hate you!

It’s simply not possible to like everyone. In fact, you can hate as many people if you like if that’s your thing. But what to do when you loathe an unpleasant colleague and feel you can never get along with them?

There are the people with whom you know from the beginning that you have absolutely nothing in common. Even worse: when you try to get to know a new colleague and can’t stand them after only a few weeks!

As in ‘real life’, there are all sorts at the office. The chatterboxes, the loud people, the ones who only pretend to be nice, the lazy, those that step outside for a smoke ten times a day and those who are forever telling you about their weekend, the braggarts, the dishonest and the incompetents who pretend to be good enough.

Except that in real life you don’t have to share an office or work on the same project with someone you can’t stand.

When a relationship with a line manager, a colleague or a team member goes bad, it can feel as though the world is collapsing around your ears. Even when you like your job and its content, the people with whom you work have a powerful effect on quality of life in the workplace.

So, what to do in this kind of situation? Here’s our survival guide on working and keeping a cool head when dealing with a colleague who is also a pr*t.

Inside the whirlwind

“I can’t stand her any more, she’s such an idiot!”, “My boss is unbearable!”… Human beings respond emotionally to most situations. We tend to get carried away by our emotions and passions even at the office.

In his Ethics, Spinoza describes the curse of being torn between reason and passion, when human beings fall prey to fluctuatio animi, the state of being concisely described by Ovid: “I see the best, I approve, and I do the worst. “

Fear, stress, anger, irritation, or all of the above can cause us to lose control. When dealing with an unbearable colleague, it’s common for people to take a dark and irrational view of the situation, when in reality – as you very well know – there is always a solution.

Piece of advice No. 1: keep your cool and don’t let rip in the open-space office. This doesn’t mean you have to brood on it forever before trying to change the situation.

Piece of advice No. 2: put up with it and protect yourself. In a world where people are apt to let their feelings run away with them, a little stoicism can be a good thing. Yes, Michel’s a pr*t; yes, Julie’s a b*tch; but what matters above all is that you carry on doing a good job.

Everyone has their own technique: some people adopt an air of detachment, others pretend they don’t know. In all cases, protect yourself against this pest of a colleague and concentrate on your personal goals at the company.

Identify the cause of the problem

How did it ever come to this? What are the human or material factors that caused this relationship fail? First of all: it takes two to disagree. And as they say, we’re all an irritation to someone, so how about having a talk with yourself? 

Very often, what we dislike the most in other people are our own weaknesses and faults. This isn’t to say that your colleague is blameless, but that in some cases there may be blame on both sides.

Piece of advice No. 3: on a quiet Saturday afternoon, take half an hour to write down in simple sentences the main reasons that according to you may explain the situation that’s bothering you so much.

Piece of advice No. 4: make an honest list of what really bothers you about your colleague, boss or intern. Sooner or later, this boil will have to be lanced.

Get to know your colleague all over again

When you hate a colleague, you tend to avoid them, keep meetings short, take your lunch break at another time. Of course, that can bring some relief at first.

Oddly, though, the more you avoid someone, the more difficult the situation gets. Unless they’re insane, the person you hate will obviously realise something’s wrong. Of that you can be sure.

So, you are not expected to turn up at your colleague’s desk and let them have it with both barrels. Only in bad American sitcoms does the level of drama need to peak after 43 minutes, with a big fight during which people hurl things at each other, exchange verbal abuse or even throw the odd fake punch. Five minutes later, everyone’s apologising to everyone else, everyone admits they’re in the wrong, everyone makes peace and all’s well in the best of all possible worlds.

Piece of advice No. 5: slow and subtle does it. The only way for you to learn to get on and live in peace is to work on it together. There are various ways of opening talks, from “Could we talk about it?“ to “Are you feeling as awkward as I am? I think we should talk about it to find a solution together.”

If that doesn’t work

You’ve tried everything, and you feel the situation can’t change or can only get worse? Keep a cool head, and above all don’t fall into the trap of spreading gossip about your terrible colleague. This may come back to haunt you if things get so bad that the management needs to intervene.

Piece of advice No. 6: don’t get even by openly criticising your colleague, especially if they’re your line manager. However, in order to remember everything, you should keep a record of your difficult relationship with them: emails, cancelled appointments, comments by dissatisfied customers, descriptions of unbearable situations, etc. This may come in useful later.

Piece of advice No. 7: ask for external help Finally, if the situation is too painful, remember the human resources (HR) department at your company is there to listen to you. HR are under a performance obligation to keep the staff physically and mentally healthy. Once more, it’s important to have it all in writing. If you can no longer stand working with someone, tell your HR manager by email, with an accurate description (date, time, place, what was said in quotation marks) of what is wrong, provided this amounts to non-compliance with workplace regulations.  The HR manager will act as a mediator so that a solution can be found.

So you’re not fated to work with someone you hate. You have resources with which to improve your relationships and your daily life. Use them! 

What are your worst experiences with an office colleague? How did it end? Did you experience something similar with your manager? If so, this article may be of interest to you!

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