Have to Work with a Person You Don’t Like? Ask Madeleine

Dear Madeleine,

There is a person on my team—a peer of mine—who rubs me the wrong way. Frankly, I just can’t stand her. She is a know-it-all, she talks incessantly, and she’s way too loud. She is constantly on the phone (not really required for the job), cracking her gum and throwing out commentary on what she is doing. Behind her back, the rest of us roll our eyes at her—which is kind of fun—but she really is annoying.

The reason this is a problem is that I know I am being promoted to team lead soon and this person will report to me. I just have no idea how to manage someone I hold in such contempt. Can I give her this feedback? Won’t she hate me? Or am I just …

Too Critical?

Dear Too Critical,

You might be. Perhaps you could use this as an opportunity to develop yourself to be more generous and kind. Or, if she is truly insufferable to everyone, you may be able to use your critical nature to help the gum snapper be more professional.

Let’s start with the ways this situation could be a spiritual development program for you. Has this happened to you before? Do you tend to judge others harshly and find them wanting? Or is this a one-off? Ask your nearest and dearest to give you an honest assessment—they are the ones who know you. If you are indeed judgmental, you’ll have your answer when your BFF laughs when you ask about it.

If it turns out you really are too critical, it is probably because you—like most humans—think everyone should be like you. Even though you are aware of how absurd this is, it is still a factor in how you frame your opinions. It might help you to understand implicit bias and the ways your brain works so that you can increase your awareness. You may also want to familiarize yourself with temperament theory—the ways in which people are different, why it matters, and how to use the knowledge to tailor your communication with others. These things are good to know even if you aren’t normally judgmental, especially if you are going to be leading a team.

Once you are team lead, the big question will be this: does gum snapper deliver what is required of her or not? Your assessment would be strictly on performance and you can give feedback based on that. If any given behavior is getting in the way of her doing her job, give feedback on that as well. If her behavior is keeping other team members from getting their jobs done, you can request that she cut it out. If you have reservations about giving feedback (and who doesn’t), you can refer to a past post here.

If she does her job consistently well, keep your opinions to yourself and keep developing trust by being in service and doing everything in your power to help her succeed. Find what is working—what she does well—and focus on that. Then over time, if things work out and if she asks, you can give her feedback about the ways she turns people off—in the service of her professional development and career growth. She probably won’t ever ask and that’s okay. By then, who knows? She might even have grown on you.

If she doesn’t perform well, and doesn’t respond to requests for changes, then presumably she won’t last in the organization and your problem is solved.

Be kind. Be fair. Be grateful she isn’t your boss. Cut her a little slack. If necessary, walk away or breathe deep and look away. Remember, she is just a person trying to get through the day like everybody else.

Love, Madeleine

About the author

Madeleine Homan Blanchard is a master certified coach, author, speaker, and cofounder of Blanchard Coaching Services. Madeleine’s Advice for the Well Intentioned Manager is a regular Saturday feature for a very select group: well intentioned managers. Leadership is hard—and the more you care, the harder it gets. Join us here each week for insight, resources, and conversation.

Got a question for Madeleine? Email Madeleine and look for your response here next week!

2 thoughts on “Have to Work with a Person You Don’t Like? Ask Madeleine

  1. Difficult situation always when it comes to working with difficult people. Our first job is to not be one of them. I think the MBTI offers a perspective on understanding difference. It takes all types. Great article!

  2. Great counsel. One other thought. This woman probably knows her co-workers have been talking behind her back. That isn’t fun, it’s hurtful. Most likely she doesn’t feel safe and in those circumstances is unlikely to do her best work. The new leader has an opportunity to influence the team for good. Making fun of any member of the team behind their back will erode the safety and confidence of everyone (“If you’ll do it to her, you’ll do it to me”). “Too Critical” has a terrific opportunity to elevate the whole team.

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