In a perfect world, we’d all like to manage people that we’d be as comfortable sharing a drink with them as working with them on a professional team. Going beyond the pleasantries and ability to find common ground, when there is general “likeableness,” work is just easier.
Unfortunately not everyone wants to be your friend when you’re the manager. Some are out for blood and want to take your job! Others just hate you for the fact that you’re the one in charge. I once had a direct report try to sabotage a project because he thought that if the job looked bad, then I’d look bad and be replaced.
The reasons why we don’t like someone can vary. What doesn’t vary is how we can effectively manage them. Here are 5 key lessons I’ve learned over the years:
1. Friendships Are Less Important At Work
Having a good friend at work can help the day go by much more quickly. Multiple studies have shown, in fact, that there are higher job satisfaction levels present when people have a best friend at work! When you’re in management, finding friendships is still important, but finding them outside of your team is usually a better idea. When you’re friends with a direct report, it becomes more difficult to discipline them should it become necessary… and if you do, that discipline can end up stopping a friendship cold anyway.
2. Stay Positive In All Things
Those sayings like “find the silver lining” or “look for the sunny side of things” grate on my nerves some days, but the truth in the message is clear. By staying positive in all circumstances, even when you’re around someone you’d rather avoid, you are leading by example as a manager. Every project at work will encounter some sort of difficulty. How you handle it will help show your direct reports where the silver lining can be found.
3. Everyone Contributes Something
I’ve found that the people I tend to dislike the most while working are the people who are the most like me. I find that this dislike stems from the fact that they have the potential to do what I do, only better. As the manager, you’re supposed to be the best right? Not necessarily. As the manager, your role is to be the team leader. That means making sure everyone contributes something based on their best strengths – even if those strengths are similar… or better than your own.
4. Work Closely Together
It’s not about keeping your enemies closer than your friends. It’s about learning what makes a person tick. You don’t have to like a person in order to understand them. Then, when you have managed to understand their perspective, that dislike you have for that person tends to start fading away. It also works in reverse – when those who don’t like you work more closely with you, their understanding of you helps to ease the discomfort.
5. Confront Fast, But Praise Faster
The most common reason to dislike someone is because they don’t contribute like they should. It could be because of laziness, brashness, or even arrogance. If you’re noticing the bad stuff as a manager, your team has known about it for weeks most likely! By fast to confront negative behaviors that could drop your team’s morale, but be faster to praise the good job a person does. Negativity is often brought about because of a lack of recognition, so put the emphasis there.
Just don’t be afraid to be proactive about the bad stuff too.
It’s not always easy to manage someone you don’t like, but it is very doable. Use these tips to work on your own interactions and you just may find that the working relationship is more about respect than it is about how much one is liked.