When You and Your Teammate Just Don’t Get Along

You’ve probably encountered this challenge if you’ve worked long enough or in a company large enough. You and another teammate just can’t seem to get along. Maybe you didn’t get off on the right foot. Maybe it was all a misunderstanding, or maybe the interpersonal conflict is intentional. Maybe they don’t like the way you walk, talk, act or look. Or maybe it’s all in your head.

We can’t expect to be BFFs with everyone on the team, but in most cases we should be expected to interact professionally and cordially with everyone. Getting along with colleagues, especially someone we don’t particularly see eye to eye with, is an indication of our character and our maturity as leaders.

Have a teammate you just don’t get along with? Here are five things you should start doing, and five things you should stop.

What to do:

  1. Assume innocence. Don’t look for ulterior motives. Give grace and err on the side that their intentions are pure.
  2. Be honest. Don’t cheerfully chirp that “Everything’s fine!” when it isn’t. Instead, ask to have an honest conversation with your colleague.
  3. Ask for a do-over. Every now and then we just get off to a bad start. Once you’ve talked, suggest you both try to start over with a clean slate.
  4. Find a way to add value. How can you use your strengths to help him or her in their role?
  5. Focus on their strengths. Quit dwelling on their characteristics or actions that drive you crazy. What qualities do they bring to the table that you value or that the organization needs?

What not to do:

  1. Avoid them. Taking drastic measures so you simply won’t have to interact will do nothing to resolve the challenge.
  2. Read into every action. Odds are they are not going out of their way to make your work life more difficult. Don’t assume it’s always about you.
  3. Complain to your leader. Unless the conflict is a threat to an individual’s safety or the organization’s wellbeing (e.g. unethical, threatening, etc.), don’t expect your boss to play referee. You can ask your leader for guidance, but you need to work out your differences one-on-one.
  4. Drag teammates into the mix. Gossiping to co-workers or forcing teammates to choose sides creates drama, which can quickly mushroom into a negative environment.
  5. Let your interpersonal conflict impact your performance. You cannot let your disagreement with a peer impact your ability to do your job.

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