Work and Wellbeing · 2 December 2019

How to work with someone you dislike


Business teams are a bit like families ? you can?t choose who your family are, and you can?t guarantee you?re going to get on easily with them, just as you don?t choose your colleagues either. The director or managers recruit them in the workplace based on specific professional skills and attributes.

In the sporting world, for example, the coach selects them based on whether they are the best cricketers, rowers or footballers in the club/county/country. It?s only then that you begin to find out how to make things work as a team.

So what can we learn from how sports and business teams manage complex relationships and different personalities to develop into high performing units?

Mix support and a sense of challenge

Firstly, expectations are important and are often where things go wrong early on.

Sports teams are released from unrealistic expectations of being best friends with everyone ? the goal is performance rather than harmony, but they do always look to develop respectful relationships where they can both support and challenge each other.

At work, this can be a tricky area too ? there is often a desire to feel that everyone is friends, yet again, the focus is really on performance and that requires discussion, support and challenge.

However, if it’s all challenge and no support, that makes for an unfriendly, unsafe environment.

All support and no challenge usually means no one learns, improves or innovates.

A mixture of support and challenge allows everyone to develop, listen to each other and adapt their behaviours as a result.

Level the playing field

Embracing and celebrating difference is important.

You’ve got a choice to make when you’re in a team and someone irritates you ? you can either focus on the irritating habit, get wound up, waiting for the annoying trait to recur.

Or you can choose to notice other more constructive behaviours and strengths.

You really can train yourself not to focus on others? weaknesses but instead notice their strengths ? and once you notice them, you can play to them and help develop them further.

When it comes to working together, don?t think about who?s going to get ahead of who. Instead, focus on how much can you learn from each other, and how many different ways of ‘playing the game’ you could explore.

Learning rather than winning can lead to much better results all round and much more satisfying relationships.

Give goodwill

Getting genuinely curious and understanding each other at a deeper level is essential to connecting in a richer, more meaningful way.

It?s not enough in sport that team members all want to win ? they all have different motivations and reasons for wanting to win which need to be shared and understood.

When you understand what drives your teammates, what they care about, what?s important to them and what they?re afraid of, then you understand why they react in certain ways to particular situations, and how you can help them to be at their best.

Seek to understand what drives them at a deeper level, raising their own awareness as well as yours, and you may just find you have more in common than not and can find many more ways in which you could collaborate and bring out each other?s strengths.

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Ben Hunt-Davis is the Co-Founder and Director at Will It Make The Boat Go Faster?, a performance and leadership consultancy specialising in high performing senior teams. With 16 years? experience of specialising in leadership and team development, Ben has worked with clients such as Unilever, HSBC, BP and many others.

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