It’s impossible to be liked by everyone — especially at the office. But you definitely don’t want to be that person no one likes.
Those who are mostly well-liked by their coworkers tend to have a far brighter career future, says Lynn Taylor, a national workplace expert and the author of “Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant: How to Manage Childish Boss Behaviour and Thrive in Your Job.”
“Plus, when you have strong, healthy workplace relationships, you will be more effective and accomplished in your job,” she says.
Michael Kerr, an international business speaker and author of “The Humour Advantage,” agrees.
He says when you you get along well with your colleagues, your life is “so much easier.” They will be willing to do you favours, volunteer to help you in times of need, speak highly of you to upper management … and the list goes on.
Luckily, there are a lot of signs that can help you determine whether your coworkers love or loathe you. If you think it’s the latter, you should make an effort to turn things around quickly. But before you do, you’ll want to be certain.
Taylor says there’s one sign in particular that you can almost always rely on (aside from a strong gut feeling — which is always the biggest telltale sign): a fundamental lack of trust.
“If they’re sceptical about your intentions and act as if you have an underlying agenda, despite your attempts to work harmoniously, there’s a very good chance you’re disliked by coworkers.”
Taylor says they may feel threatened by you, and therefore uncooperative — providing minimal information and support. “Your coworkers fear that if they’re supportive, they will give up power and embolden you and your career,” she explains.
To the extent you must work with these people, “your best recourse is reassurance of your true intent, communicating your common goals, and diplomatically setting limits to specific unproductive behaviour,” she says.
Here are some things you can try:
1. Calmly ask if you can sit down and discuss a couple of project ideas, ideally over coffee. Offer to buy a few colleagues coffee and try and be vague if pressed about the agenda, Taylor suggests.
“You don’t want to appear threatening and this, after all, is a project discussion…it’s how you’re going to work better on projects. Plus, you’re wise to start the conversation on a recent or current project to break the ice. Make sure the time you choose is convenient for them.”
2. Show them your true intent by asking if there’s anything you can do to enhance the relationship. Listen more than you talk. That may help guide your discussion, she says.
“Then let your coworkers know what your goals are, that you are trying to achieve X, and help them see how your focus areas are delineated.” Praise them for their unique expertise; and be reassuring. Let them know that your project and functional goals are distinctly different.
3. Show them the light by explaining to them how you see several benefits of working together in terms of your separate skills sets, using current and future projects as examples.
“Offer an olive branch,” Taylor suggests. “Ask about their expertise so that you can bring them into projects and genuinely help them in their career. Focus on the fact that you share common goals and have much to gain by working in tandem.”
4. Set limits, diplomatically. If their behaviour has been unacceptable, then you must go a step further, she says. “Explain with diplomacy that the ill will is hurtful and that while you want to make things better, certain behaviour such as X is not ok (e.g., badmouthing or rudeness in public). If things get out of hand and it’s hurting your ability to work, you can talk to trusted colleagues, as there’s power in numbers, and potentially consult your manager,” she adds. But first, do your best to solve your issue one-on-one with each colleague.
“Be patient — it may take some time,” Taylor concludes.
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