“I Just Can’t Work with Them!”

“Differences are not intended to separate, to alienate. We are different precisely in order to realize our need of one another”

-Desmond Tutu

Over the course of your career, you’re going to have to work with people that you don’t get along with personally. Whether it’s your boss, business partner or colleague – it happens. We are all different and often perform the same tasks in different ways. Some move slower than others, some have a not-so-polished communication style, some make horrible jokes – the list goes on. It is so easy to become frustrated and cry out “I can’t work with him!” or “She really gets on my nerves!”

This response is dismissive and counterproductive.

It does nothing to help solve the problem and get you to a point where you can all work together harmoniously which is always the goal.

There’s no way to avoid having to work with someone whose style differs from our own, so we might as well have a clear-cut plan to properly manage these relationships.

Our ability to do this effectively only helps us grow as professionals and as people.

The first thing you need to do is recognize that there are variances. Resist the urge to dismiss the other party and focus on identifying the dissimilarities in the way you work.

One of the biggest mistakes we can make it assuming the person we’re working with is just being difficult or writing them off as a jerk. This doesn’t help you develop nor does it help you build the relationships you need to be successful. Recognize when there is simply a difference in work style. For example, while you may work well under pressure, the business partner you’re working with might not. They may respond defensively when you attempt to wrap up a project or close the loop on something that’s been open for some time. This doesn’t make them a bad person. This doesn’t make them incompetent or unintelligent. It simply means they don’t respond to pressure the way you do. They may want to take their time and walk through each step in the process as opposed to run.

Your success hinges upon your ability to see this for what it is and approach it with tact and a bit of empathy.

The second thing you’ll have to do is get real.

A huge part of working successfully with those who have different work styles is to get real. Get it through your head that everybody doesn’t have to do things the way you do. In fact, that’s a good thing!

Can you imagine if everybody thought the exact same way or did everything in the exact same manner? There would be no innovation, invention or any kind of forward movement.

Our differences are a huge part of our value as human beings and if we shun the differences of others, we are only hurting ourselves. Embrace the diversity and move forward.

Finally, you’re all going to have to confront and compromise.

Many complain about those who think differently than they do. They wonder why the other person can’t just do things their way – the way that seems accurate to them. This thinking doesn’t help. The only way to get beyond these dissimilarities and finish that project or complete that assignment is to simply confront and compromise. Admit that there are differences in the way you work and it’s the way you’ve been handling these differences that have made things challenging. Each will have to do this and then be willing to bend a little.

If you’re working with someone who doesn’t handle pressure well, if possible, try to give a bit more notice when scheduling meetings and setting due dates. If you are the one struggling in a high pressure situation, you may have to grit your teeth and reprioritize so you can better manage what’s in front of you.

If you’re working with someone who has a rough approach or makes bad jokes, you may have to learn not to take everything personally. If they cross the line, you may have to directly and respectfully bring this to their attention. Conversely, if you know that your delivery could use some work, try to ease up and take someone else’s feelings into consideration from time to time. Be mindful of not taking things too far.

Now, let’s pull this all together. If you find yourself working with someone and it isn’t going well, there may just be some differences in your work styles. Maybe they aren’t just being difficult. Maybe they’re not really a jerk.

It’s up to you to recognize that there are differences, get real about them and be willing to confront and compromise.


Thank you for reading my post. My name is Pamela Shand and I want the best for you in your career. It is my hope that you find everything you read here helpful in advancing your career. If you did, feel free to follow my blog for future articles. I regularly write on resume building, interview success and various ways to unravel common and not-so-common career snags.

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