Blog Post

The Key to Managing People You Don't Like

Suzanne Lucas

Founder, Evil HR Lady

When you get promoted to a managerial position, you don't automatically gain managerial skills that allow you to easily treat people fairly. You're still the same person you were the day before, and let's face that—that probably means you don't like everyone equally.

In fact, you may have direct reports that you really can't stand. How are you supposed to treat those people fairly when everything they do makes you cringe? How can you ensure you aren't playing favorites because you really do like other people better? It's not easy, but there is one key thing to do: Take a step back.

Personalities can often get in the way of evaluating someone purely based on talent. It's in our nature to think someone with whom you have a great rapport is doing a better job than someone who grates on you. But stepping back will help you to avoid this problem.

Make Evaluations Based on Results

When you step back, you make evaluations based on results instead of face-to-face interactions. Look at the numbers. Did Bob really handle clients better than Steve? Who has gotten more sales? Who has resolved more issues? It may mean asking someone else to look at work products to help you evaluate your employees' abilities more objectively.

Doing these things can help you take the personality out of your assessments, and assign work fairly. If someone complains that you are treating some people better than others, take it seriously. You may be. This person may be a whiner and a slacker but they might not be, and you need to evaluate that. Stepping back from the situation can help you determine that.

Get to the Root of Your Feelings

One thing that can help you clear your head is figuring out why you dislike this person. It could be strictly a personality thing, and it could be that your subconscious is picking up on habits that will negatively affect their career. So, take the time to sit down and figure out what bothers you.

If it's that you don't care for their sense of humor, but they aren't necessarily rude or inappropriate, then you need just to let it go. But if you don't care for their humor because the jokes actually are inappropriate, that's something you should address. "Bob, your jokes push the limit of appropriateness for the office. I need you to stop telling race or gender-based jokes. Can you do that for me?"

If it's that the person seems bossy, what makes the person seem that way? Is it that Sally cuts people off in meetings? Takes credit for things she didn't do? Again, if you figure out that's what causing your unkind feelings, you can address that with her.

Consider That You May Be the Problem

But, here's a caution: The problem may be you. You may not like Sally because she's smarter than you are. Don't punish her for that. You may not like Bob because he's a conservative and you're a liberal. As long as you're not an office manager for a senator, that doesn't matter. Just focus on the work.

Remember, your goal at work isn't to make friends, but to accomplish things. Step back from your own emotions, and you'll find that to be easier than you once thought.

Photo: Creative Commons

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