Not Everyone is Going to Like You—and That’s Perfectly OK
Most of us have a deep desire to feel connected, or belong. It’s human nature. So when you feel like someone in your workplace doesn’t like you, it can hurt your morale, rendering you less enthusiastic and productive in general. But we are all different, so it’s impossible for us to have everyone, even sometimes in the workplace, like us. Yet the opposite is also true: Because of our similarities, some people will like us more. Accepting these truths, realizing you often can’t force or coerce people to change their opinions of you, can actually provide a sense of freedom in the mind. Once you let go of that struggle to make someone like or value you more, this can shape how you perceive your situation, particularly how you view peoples’ differences. Instead of investing energy, emotions, and time on a dysfunctional dynamic, discipline yourself to put more of such resources toward what will bring about greater results and rewards.
Here are four ways to do that:
1. Don’t take it to heart. When you make differences personal, whether it’s between yourself and other co-workers or your boss, you’re really making this issue about YOU. However, this habit isn’t just a time-waster but something that spotlights and creates even more emphasis around those differences, elevating their power over you. In MAP’s book, “The Disciplined Leader,” we talk about focusing on the problem, not the person. Bravely turning the attention to what is right versus who is right is a best practice. It can help in moving beyond communication struggles and other relationship-based roadblocks that commonly crop up due to personality differences.
2. Model the behavior you want to see. Can you imagine a workplace in which everyone sits idly around, gossiping and worrying about who does and does not like them? Actually, such places do exist, particularly in environments led by leaders who openly engage in this practice themselves. If you’re prone to this behavior, create some awareness around it, put together a plan to stop it, and then follow through. You know that perseverating about people who don’t like you won’t change a situation. So help everyone understand this, showing them through your own workplace habits the more fruitful way to think and behave.
Sometimes people hurt us, even at work. When this happens, you may find that the only thing getting in your way is you, or your immediate inability to forgive. In such cases, I encourage you to do some soul-searching and try to find a way to forgive this person if you can. I’m not talking about being a pushover or letting abusive, dishonest, or otherwise unethical people stomp all over you. But if you can see the value of the lesson learned in the situation as a gift, rather than a curse, this might help in terms of inspiring you to think or react differently in the future. Forgiveness can be incredibly transformative in terms of you letting go of what you cannot control and embracing what you can.
4. Focus on the goal.
I hope you know that you are a worthy person. So when you find yourself having distracting thoughts (e.g., “Why doesn’t that person like me?” or “Why am I not good enough for them to invite me to join that team?), try to shift those thoughts back to three powerful words: What’s the goal? When you do this, note how your mind had wandered, then, without judgment, return your attention to your number-one responsibility: Focusing on the Vital Few. The Vital Few are the 20% of professional activities and responsibilities that will drive 80% of your results. Spending even a few minutes in thought, day after day, about how someone doesn’t like you will muddy your focus on the Vital Few. More importantly, getting back on task, controlling what you can, and aligning your mindset and actions around what’s going to drive results is your job. So do it!
What’s another best leadership practice when it comes to working with someone who doesn’t like you?