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In an ideal world everyone would get along; there would be no conflicts.  We live in this place called reality.  In reality people don’t like everyone they meet or work with.  This can be a huge challenge in the workplace.  Office politics and gossip can create drama, leaving managers to deal with the fallout.  Even more challenging is when the manager is faced with managing someone they don’t like.

It is important to remember that life would be boring if everyone were the same.  In the business world, innovation and productivity would be scarce if everyone got along.  It is those people who are most unlike ourselves that challenge us to step outside of our comfort zone.  While it is easier to like everyone, especially direct reports, it is not always possible.

While this is a difficult place to be, it is important to remain neutral.  They may equate your demeanor towards them as lacking performance, as opposed to an interpersonal mismatch.  Remember that this is business and remove emotion from the situation so you can remain respectful, fair and impartial.

The first step in managing someone you don’t like is to do a bit of soul searching.  What is it about them that you don’t like?  Be brutally honest with yourself.  Perhaps they remind you of a childhood bully or you feel threatened by their experience.  It could also be that they possess a trait that you wish you had, such as great fashion sense or the ability to convert sales with ease.

The next step is to get to know them.  Sometimes poor impressions are created due to misunderstandings.  If they have a defensive demeanor towards you or constantly go to their peers for help, it might be because they feel intimidated.  Sharing lunch together, outside of the office setting, will allow both of you to relax a bit and hopefully discover that there are some mutual interests.


If lunch is a bust, all hope is not lost.  Now that you know the team member better, try to find a few things that you like about them.  They could be great with difficult clients or effective problem solvers.  Regardless of the outcome, make certain to keep your own bias out of your feedback and performance evaluations.  If needed, ask a colleague to be your voice of reason.

Managing someone you don’t like can be one of the more challenging, yet most rewarding professional experiences.  It allows a leader to test their skills as they move out of their comfort zone.  Over time the person who challenged you might become the biggest asset on the team.

David Klein is a leading Executive IT Recruiter & Headhunter with over 15 years industry experience.  As Manager of Recruitment Strategy for KDS Staffing, Inc., he has achieved industry-leading success. David has successfully led, trained and introduced many in the art of Executive Recruitment and Headhunting. If you or your organization would like to discuss hiring needs, contact David at 646-650-2833 or

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