How to work with someone who dislikes you

There is no ideal world – just the real one. Not everyone likes you and not everyone enjoys teamwork.

Mark H. McCormack, author of On Managing, shares the story of a newly promoted manager who pulled rank on a subordinate to complete an overdue task. The manager said: “You work for me so get it done.” The colleague replied: “I work for the company; you happen to be my manager for now.” The task got done but the line in the sand was clearly drawn. That line spoke volumes, i.e. I don’t like you or respect your authority. McCormack says management theory rests on concepts of leadership, building loyalty and pulling together, but in reality colleagues can resent, suspect or dislike you and simply withhold support, information or effort. When someone is that upfront, or personality is the issue over performance, managers must adapt their style.

His tip:

The learning for that manager was that working together thereafter required planning, intermediaries, negotiation and oblique engagement over ownership. It’s vital to realistically identify who is with or against you, all or any of the time. Clues can include:

  • How people describe their responsibilities
  • The self-chosen job title
  • How someone defines and defends their territory
  • Language, tone, mannerisms and facial expressions
  • How staff introduce you to others
  • The ebb and flow of work

Ultimately I recommend swapping terms like “work for” to “work with” and keeping a check on the pulse of your teamwork. Managing is not a popularity contest but, as a former Premier told me, it’s better to know who’s on your side before you need to prove it.

Please feel welcome to reply to me in the comments, I love your feedback.