How To Work With People You’d Rather Not

It's vital to learn how to work with people you don't exactly get along with. Here are eight steps to make the process as painless as possible.

You know the guy. He wears his cap crooked, walks around the dealership like he owns it and pun-ctu-ates every word that comes out of his mouth. He’s always the first to complain about some perceived injustice and the last to offer a helping hand on the sales floor.

Granted, you’re probably not the only employee who has issues with Mr. Congeniality. The fact that he irritates you so much is likely having an impact on your disposition, which affects your interactions with customers and your productivity.

It’s crucial to act now in order to prevent any future damage to your career (or at least to your workday). Here, in ascending order of urgency, are eight suggestions for working with someone you don’t like.

1. Be empathetic. Put yourself in your colleague’s riding boots. Perhaps he’s insecure and he makes up for that by being an egotistical jerk. Alternatively, he’s the youngest staff member on the floor and he believes that, in order to gain attention, he needs to be obnoxious. If you can determine why there’s a personality clash, you may be able to address the issue before more problems arise. If you don’t address these issues, they may infect the rest of the dealership.

2. Try to be friendly. What if you paid a compliment to Mr. Congeniality? “Nice work on that husband-wife double sale!” Bring him a donut in the morning or buy him a Coke on break. Invite him out with fellow salespeople for an after-work get-together at Buffalo Wild Wings. Ask him what he did over the weekend and if he was able to get in some solid riding time. If you’re not quite comfortable doing any of those things, then just simply say hello to him when you arrive for your shift. That alone could ease tension.

3. Compare notes. Ask him flattering questions like, “How do you get so many repeat and referral customers?” or, “You seem to overcome spousal resistance so easily. What’s your secret?” Even if you already know the answers, these questions might help him realize that you’ve noticed his strengths. That could lead to a healthy exchange of ideas and maybe — get ready for it! — the beginning of a healthy friendship.

4. Be brutally honest. Acknowledge the tension between the two of you and discuss how you might be able to reduce it: “We’ve worked together long enough now that I hope I can shoot straight with you. Here’s my beef.” Then explain your perspective, citing examples. If that doesn’t work? Well, you’ve tried. Now just stay out of his way as much as possible and at least pretend to get along — for the sake of the dealership, colleagues and customers. Nobody wants a lack of harmony in the workplace.

5. Don’t compete with each other for sales or for the attention of customers or the boss. Doing those things will only make whatever situation exists between both of you worse.

6. Become an expert strategist. Consider activating one or more coping strategies. For example, attempt to make sure there are more employees than just you and him around at all times, or at least keep any one-on-one dialogue strictly focused on work-related tasks. Whatever you do, don’t engage him in discussions about politics, religion, sports, music or any other open-ended topic that could set him off. If you know that he can’t tolerate drinking coffee, for cryin’ out loud, don’t offer him a cup in the break room and give him one more reason to dislike you. It’s as simple as that.
If one approach doesn’t work, try another one until you figure out how to amicably interact with one another.

7. Talk with the authorities. No, don’t call the police. Rather, make an appointment to meet with your sales manager. That is the one person in the dealership who has the power and the authority to see to it that the two of you aren’t assigned to the same shifts — or at least to the same section of the showroom. Keep in mind that your sales manager might not be in favor of that potential solution and would prefer that the two of you work things out on your own.

8. Agree to disagree about everything, if necessary. Just accept the fact that, “You don’t like me; I’m not that crazy about you.” Just because you don’t get along with a colleague, doesn’t mean that your day-to-day existence at the dealership has to be miserable. These eight tips won’t solve every problem that might exist between the two of you, but they’ll make working together a lot more productive for everyone. 

An award-winning author, top-rated trainer and founder of Peak Dealership Performance, Mark Rodgers holds a master’s degree in adult education and the National Speakers Association Certified Speaking Professional designation — only 500 people in the world have this coveted recognition. Contact [email protected] to improve your performance.  

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