How Do You Work with Someone You Hate?

by Alli Polin on August 26, 2014

Choose to let go of hate

I’m currently working with a contractor that drives me batty.  Everything they do and say rubs me the wrong way and as a result, I’m losing confidence in their ability to be effective. They’re demanding, judgmental, secretive about their processes and promised results have yet to be proven.  Honestly, I was brought up to never use the word “hate,” but instead, say “strongly dislike,” yet this person is pushing me over the edge.  I hired this person to be on my team, and now I’m left wondering what to do when you work with someone you hate?

Something strange happens every time I interact with them; I go nuts.  I am polite, respectful and flexible and it takes all of my energy for every short interaction.  Once I hang up the phone or leave our latest meeting, I’m seething with anger and frustration.  After our meetings and email exchanges, I am like a bubbling cauldron of exasperation and it flows over and burns innocent people in my life.  Not good.

Their words, body language and attitude make my skin prickle.

  • Good idea but…
  • Don’t do that…
  • I’m perfect… (OK, they don’t really say that, but it’s what I hear)

I really can’t live and work like this, wasting energy that can be channeled into positive actions.

In a situation like this it’s easy to feel stuck and simply accept that “suck it up” has to be the strategy of choice. I want you to know that there are other, more empowering, stress-reducing choices to make.  I’m taking responsibility for my thoughts and feelings and so can you.

How Do you Work with Someone You Hate?

You don’t have to take all of these actions, but pick a few and see if it starts to make a difference.

Take Responsibility for the Way You Feel
You are in control of your thoughts and feelings and even when your buttons are pushed, you can still choose your reaction.  As lovely as it would be to blame someone else for bringing out the worst in you, you’re the one letting it all hang out.

Speak Up
If you’re done suffering and ready to take positive action, you can always say something.  Open the door to a conversation not only about the work, but also about the relationship.  It doesn’t mean that they’ll want to dive into a tough topic, but you can be a leader who opens the door instead of keeping it glued shut with your anger.

Breathe Deeply
Slow your heart rate, focus on your breath, close your eyes and take a moment to consciously let go of the stress and lean into the breath.  Sounds woo woo, but it works so inhale…. exhale… in hale… exhale…

Better With or Without?
Sometimes you have limited options and even bad is better than nothing. Honestly.  It’s tempting to assume you can just get it done on your own and cut the focus of your hate out of your life; really, really tempting.  However, there are times when you need someone’s help and the only person who can do it will not be your BFF.  Get really clear – is this a case where their positive contribution outweighs your negative reactions.

Make a Choice
You always have the ability to choose: stick with them or cut them loose.  Like I wrote earlier, “suck it up” is not the only strategy at your disposal.  Be really aware that you’re making a choice, not floating along doing nothing and using your hatred as your oars.  Keep ‘em around and make it an intentional choice which, like a big boy or girl, you need to own.

Look in the Mirror
What is it about them that digs into your heart and gets your blood pumping?  What is it about you that’s embracing anger instead of positive feelings and reactions?  In this case, I can’t change their behavior, but I can change my thoughts and reaction.  So can you.

They Don’t Care
While you’re sitting over there steaming, picture this… they don’t care, notice or miss a beat.  Assume that they’re going about their day not giving you a second thought.  Why are you giving them so much energy?  One sided, baby –  never works.

Do I still dislike this person greatly?  You betcha.  Am I willing to accept that I choose to engage them as part of my team?  No one is forcing me and there is no one else that I can blame for that choice?  Yeah, all true.

So, do they need to change or is it me?  I think we both know the answer to that question.

PS.  There is no magic or overnight solution.  I still struggle and so will you.  The trick is to keep on trying and to do a little bit better tomorrow than you did yesterday.

How do you work with someone you hate?  How have you turned a contentious relationship into a strong partnership?

For coaching, consulting or speaking Let’s Connect!

 

{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

Chery Gegelman August 26, 2014 at 7:08 am

Alli -Has anyone told you lately that you rock? You consistently take tough issues, hold them up, add a few laughs, speak truth, and end on an encouraging note!

When I opened your email I saw the words “let it go” before anything else. Then I read the title of your post as this song ran through my mind! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L0MK7qz13bU

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Alli Polin August 26, 2014 at 7:12 am

That song is ever present these days for a good reason and it’s because of more than the music 🙂

I was soooooo worked up about this person and the moment I decided to let it go is the moment I found freedom from my hate, frustration and craziness. I truly chose peace when I decided that they were just a human doing their best and somehow things had escalated beyond my imagination. We’ll see if things stay this way but for now, it really feels good.

I appreciate you!!

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Tom Rhodes August 26, 2014 at 9:09 am

Alli,
Another fantastic post. You touched on two of my favorite leadership topics. Personal accountability and Difficult Conversations. You are control of your choices and sometimes you have to have a hard talk with yourself to make the right ones. I agree with Chery that at times the answer is to let it go. What I love about that song and the movie is that it shows the power anger has over us and how much love can overcome. You are such a positive and strong person. Make the choice that’s best for you. The business side will fall in place. By the way somewhere on YouTube there is a version of that song in 42 different languages.
You got this!!!

Tom

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Alli Polin August 27, 2014 at 5:34 am

When I wrote this, I was seething and in the process of catching my breath. Since then, I’ve simply let go (not let them go). I’m open to accepting that this the best they can do and for now, acceptance is bringing peace too. Peace in my heart and peace between us as well. It only takes one side to go to war and I refuse.

I’ve seen the video in many languages. Too cool, right?

Appreciate you tons, Tom!! You are an insightful and authentic leader.

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Terri Klass August 26, 2014 at 9:32 am

I can relate to this “here they come again” topic because it seems that just as I move on from a difficult person, another one appears.

So my take on this is we allow these difficult people to have power over us. Crazy, but true. Once we realize, as you did, that we can take control by staying true to ourselves, work with their strengths or let them go, we feel we can forge ahead. Saying goodbye could be the healthiest thing sometimes. If the person is trying to sabotage us or can’t see our self-worth, I would definitely move on.

Another great post, Alli and really got me thinking about different ways to deal with this issue!

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Alli Polin August 27, 2014 at 5:41 am

We all have people in our lives like this, don’t we? Constantly pushing our buttons as if they know every single one. Truthfully, I realize that most people aren’t that evil and oftentimes it’s more about me and the way I’m projecting. Still, this was a nasty situation and both sides were at wits end.

I’ve also realized that I was focused on the job this person was doing and my expectations. I was not thinking about how sensitive they are, how much love and encouragement they needed. At first I thought I could not give it authentically but when I started, I found the truths in there. It made a huge difference.

I always learn from you and appreciate how you share your insights so generously.

Thanks, Terri!

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Samantha Hall August 26, 2014 at 11:08 am

Will this person be reading your post? (grins)

Excellent post and topic Alli!

In a situation like this, sometimes it can also be helpful to put yourself in the other persons shoes. If you were them, would YOU want to be working with or for someone that hates you and you don’t know or understand why?

Sometimes it’s easy to feel like certain people might be intentionally trying to sock it to us or purposefully digging into an already sore and open wound….which makes it even more difficult to forgive… however, not everyone knows their impact on us unless we CONFESS.

You are absolutely right. It’s our responsibility to take ownership of our thoughts and feelings. Yet we aren’t responsible for their thoughts and feelings either. NOT that we want to intentionally hurt anyone, I’m strictly speaking in terms of withholding a difficult conversation simply due to not wanting to upset anyone else. So then WE suffer because of our inability to deal with the difficult feelings that may crop up in another. Or we are afraid of a potentially explosive situation.

Personally, when I’ve felt extremely difficult feelings while working with or for someone and it only gets worse and escalates over time. I eventually start looking for other options rather then the sucking up and driving on as you already mentioned:

‘Sucking up is never the best strategy or only choice.’

And in the case of someone just being flat out manipulative and intentionally trying to work you over so they have the upper hand all of the time? Being the change can simply mean ‘live and let live’ …. separately!

A mind and body can only handle so much toxicity and some combinations of people just don’t ‘create’ well together.

My biggest challenge is when things happen in social media when traveling in the same social circles. There’s not always the option to ‘get away’ from a particularly difficult personality interaction without having to cut myself out of certain social circles completely. And I LOVE community in spite of toxic personalities that literally drive me nuts at times! haha

I seethe with HOW do they keep getting away with doing what they keep doing? How come other people don’t seem to see what I see? How do they get away with plagiarizing as much as they do and still ‘succeed’? Things like that absolutely prick my ‘injustice’ button! (grins)

So that one I still have to work on…. So timely post my friend!

Lots of wonderful suggestions that lead to 1) have that difficult conversation sooner rather then later and 2) start looking for options so we don’t feel stuck in situations like that. In situations where we hire someone and it’s not a good fit, they aren’t the only person on the planet that can do the same job. If they are…yikes! : )

Great post Alli!

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Alli Polin August 27, 2014 at 5:49 am

I have a similarly tuned injustice button. I don’t get it and have thought about walking away at times but then I’m really hurting myself too and we all lose.

I really hope that this person does not read my blog! If they do, I also hope that they see that hate and hurt can transform into acceptance, personal accountability and a heart at peace. Whether I want to or not long term, I’m in a relationship with this person now and I need to stop going to war within.

The funny thing is that I sensed that if asked, this person would have said that they hate me too. When I let go of the baggage, they did too and despite my reservations, things have shifted. A fresh perspective of where they fit into the puzzle and where I fit too has been transformative.

“Being the change can simply mean ‘live and let live’ …. separately!” YES!! That time will surely come in this relationship too. It’s the separation that brings a freedom that suddenly makes us realize that for too long we’ve been holding our breath and tiptoeing around.

One of the many things I love about you is how you always challenge me to think in new ways. Many thanks to you!

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Joy Guthrie August 26, 2014 at 11:29 am

I must come clean on this one. I had an instant dislike for one person I had to work with. It worked out ok. I married him & we’ve been together quite a while. You offer really great advice in your post, Alli. Thanks!

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Alli Polin August 27, 2014 at 5:51 am

Hysterical!!! (and I’m super glad it worked out!)

Shows us all that when we let go of hate (or strong dislike) a remarkable relationship is still possible.

You are awesome!

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Carl August 26, 2014 at 1:52 pm

Hi Alli,
I think most of us have been there with you – cringing when we see the number on caller ID, or knowing you are going into a meeting with that special person.
Since changing them is not an option, the key becomes modifying your reaction to them and if changing contractors is not an option, try taking a strategy from the NLP playbook – when you are listening to this person, hear them with a comical voice – hear them speaking as Donald Duck, Alvin and the chipmunks, or even a high-pitched helium voice. If it brings a smile to your face, then your inner chemistry will begin to change.
Best regards & good luck!
Carl
@SparktheAction

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Alli Polin August 27, 2014 at 5:56 am

It’s so true! We can only change ourselves (or our perspective).

I love that NLP tip!! It’s true that when I smile, and replace my crazy anger with laughter, the way I see the world changes too.

Thanks so much, Carl!

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LaRae Quy August 26, 2014 at 3:24 pm

Wow! I’ve been in this spot a few times myself!

It is really hard to keep our negative emotions from seeping to the top and spilling over…and I suggest that people do exactly what you did—be bold and name the emotion for what it is. It might not be pretty but honesty with self is essential.

From there, we actually have the choice of choosing our attitude about it.

I love all your suggestions…and good luck with that contractor!

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Alli Polin August 27, 2014 at 6:00 am

You’re right, LaRae. Accepting the emotion has enabled me to choose to change. The shift has been remarkable and hopefully, I’ll remain mindful and continue to choose a more powerful perspective.

Thanks so much for sharing your insight on this too! Your understanding of mental toughness is second to none!

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John Thurlbeck August 26, 2014 at 3:41 pm

Hi Alli

As a long time supporter of the No Hate campaign and an ardent practitioner of the same, I reveled in your post! I love the way you open up these challenging topics, add a strong personal take, and close with a powerful call to individual action.

You are without question a star!

I also wish you every success with your e-course! I hope it sells amazingly!

Kind regards

John 🙂

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Alli Polin August 27, 2014 at 6:02 am

Thanks for the well wishes on the ecourse, John! The more I put into it, the more excited I am to launch it!

Hate is not a fun topic but it’s with self-awareness and accountability that we can chose another path.

So grateful for your connection, John!

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Jon Mertz August 26, 2014 at 6:17 pm

Alli,

This is life and work! Finding someone you really don’t enjoy working with is a challenge. Remembering to breathe is essential, and I will take walks around the building after a meeting as well. Beyond this, it becomes sort of a game in knowing what you need to get done, figuring out the right moves to streamline the interactions, and then moving forward with calm and forthrightness. Always a challenge, always necessary.

Thanks for your wise advice here!

Jon

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Alli Polin August 27, 2014 at 6:05 am

It’s a really good tip to take a walk instead of bringing that frustration and anger back into the office and spitting fire at someone that is in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I also agree with you on streamlined interactions. That’s exactly what I’ve put in place and am supportive and engaged but within boundaries that work.

Many thanks to you for sharing your experience and wisdom here!!

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Michael Feeley August 27, 2014 at 7:07 am

What a great post Alli! You’re really courageous to bring this up and to show that how we see other people is the essence.

If you don’t like yourself for how you see or react to someone else then it’s important you do all you can to change it, even if you never confront the person. They may not change or feel there is a need to be different…BUT…We must do the internal work to be fair to them even when they push all our Buttons!!

Thanks for all the positive and detailed choices you offer to see and think and act differently. I especially love the one about choice…we always have a choice to change or move away from what is not working for us.

My very best — Michael

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Cynthia August 27, 2014 at 12:56 pm

Alli, you seriously rock my friend! Really enjoyed the topic. LOVED the solutions!! Taking responsibility for your feelings and You have a choice rang out to me! Definitely we need to be in control of our feelings, do not let that negative toxic person take control of us!

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Scott Mabry August 27, 2014 at 5:42 pm

Great post Alli. Especially appreciate that you point out the fact that while you are seething they are blissfully unaware and..thus…nothing will change. Ultimately we must engage in the difficult conversation if the situation is going to change or decide to change our perspective (less likely). Thank you for sharing your experience.

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Brigitte Kobi August 29, 2014 at 2:50 am

This is a great article, Alli. I think changing one’s own thoughts and feelings makes the whole difference. No doubt, it needs some discipline but it’ll be worth the effort.

Have a great weekend.
Brigitte

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Karin Hurt September 1, 2014 at 8:16 am

Loved the post. It does strike me that if they are a contractor you do have a choice. Sometimes we just hold on too long. With that said, there are so many times at work that you really don’t have a choice of who you work with. Your list here is very compelling.

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kelli September 1, 2014 at 4:27 pm

Hey Alli
You give some good advice here for an issue that a lot of people deal with quite frequently. The first tip about taking responsibility for our feelings is golden. Ultimately, no one can make us feel a certain way. Yeah, someone may be a complete jerk or acting crazy or whatever, but how we respond is all about us. Taking responsibility for our feelings can be exhausting—it is so much easier to blame someone else 🙂 But, if we do this work, it can dramatically change our lives.

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