Here's what to do when you realise your coworkers secretly hate you

Employee coworkerTech Hub/flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons 2.0If you know in your gut they hate you, here’s what you can do.

There are tons of subtle (and not to subtle) signs your coworkers despise you.

If you’ve noticed that they can’t maintain eye contact with you, spread nasty rumours about you, or stop smiling the minute you enter the room, you may want to evaluate whether you’re doing something wrong.

Of course, sometimes personalities simply clash and it’s nobody’s fault. But if more than one coworker seems to dislike you, you should take a good look in the mirror and do everything you can to turn the situation around.

“It’s important for your colleagues to like you, as you will be more effective in your job and get more accomplished if you have strong relationships,” 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.” “You’ll be better able to focus, more creative, and deliver your best results.”

In contrast, she explains, “petty politics and negativity will drain you and your ability to advance in your job.”

But while it’s important to make an effort with your colleagues — especially those who aren’t particularly fond of you — “this doesn’t mean you have to be a doormat, and in the process lose respect for yourself,” says Michael Kerr, an international business speaker and author of “The Humour Advantage.”

“Don’t go overboard trying to get everyone’s personal stamp of approval,” Taylor adds. “The workplace is made up of diverse personalities, and sometimes you just have to accept that not everyone loves you.”

If you’re fairly certain your coworkers hate you, here’s what you can do:

Remember that disagreement is not the same as hatred.

Ask yourself if you truly believe this person genuinely dislikes you, or if they simply don't agree with all of your ideas.

If you're fairly certain it's the former, follow the steps below. But if it's the latter, 'try to embrace a difference of opinion with the idea that you'll learn something, and do your best to not take the opposing side as a personal attack,' Taylor suggests.

Get a reality check from others.

If you think you're being singled out by a coworker and are 'hated,' check in with a trusted colleague who does like you. 'They may tell you differently: that this is how the 'culprit' operates with everyone. Or, you may be vindicated, which gives you a green light to speak up,' says Taylor. 'But be sure to keep the conversation between you and trusted colleague discreet.'

Face it head on.

Kerr recommends you ask for meeting in a neutral, private setting and openly discuss your concerns. 'If you feel it's reached toxic levels in the workplace, then consider bringing in an impartial facilitator or mediator to guide the discussion.'

Approach them diplomatically.

Once you're in the meeting, explain that you're interested in creating a more congenial relationship, says Taylor. 'Ask how you can do your part to improve things.'

Start and end the conversation on a light note (for instance, you can choose a topic that you share in common), avoid being accusatory, and try listening more than you talk.

Be specific.

If your coworker is vague about their 'issue' with you, try to press for specifics about what isn't working, Taylor says. 'If they seem unable to communicate it and have been in a passive aggressive mode, perhaps you have some ideas on what's behind the problem, so you might try and bring up what you believe the underlying issues are.'

Be open and accountable for any role you may play.

Don't overreact or take things too personally.

The proverbial 'count to ten' axiom is useful, says Taylor. 'Take time to chill out and think thinks over before acting on an emotional whim. You may have misunderstood the person, and either or both of you may be holding an unnecessary grudge. Today, with heavy reliance on brief communications through texts, for example, there's so much room for misunderstandings, and consequently office fall-outs. That makes emotional intelligence more critical than ever.'


If it turns our your coworker doesn't like you because of something you did -- perhaps you once stole credit for their work, or you've thrown them under the bus -- don't get defensive and make excuses for your bad behaviour. Own up to the mistake and say 'sorry.'

'This will help you come across as more humble, open and honest,' says Kerr.

Do small favours and offer your help ...

'You don't want to cross the line and be perceived as trying too hard, but simple gestures such as bringing in extra treats or offering to grab someone a coffee will always help,' says Kerr.

Offering a hand can also go a long way. 'Treat them like an important customer and ask if there is anything more you can do for them to help them with their work,' he adds.

… but don't be a suck-up.

Focus on doing the best job you can and being upbeat and friendly -- but don't go overboard trying to be everyone's best friend. 'You'll be exhausted in short order and it is a nearly impossible task,' says Taylor.

Modify expectations.

Remember: You can't (and won't) be liked by everyone.

'One way to be let down by many coworkers is to have high expectations that everyone wants to be lifelong friends,' says Taylor. 'There are cultural differences that make some people more extroverted than others, and a host of other reasons behind just how jovial your teammates will be -- none of which you can control.'

Don't fuel the fire.

While it can be upsetting to see bad behaviour in a coworker, don't fight fire with fire by hurling accusations or insults, advises Taylor. 'Take the high road and get more information. Stay professional at all times.'

Ask for their opinion and input.

This will show that even though you may not get along or always agree, you care about and respect their ideas and opinions, Kerr says.

'Asking them for input will help you remain professional and send the message that you value their wisdom, judgment, and experience,' he adds. 'It makes them feel important which can help build trust -- a key component in any relationship.'

Show empathy.

If you can put yourself in someone else's shoes, you will most likely have a better outcome in resolving conflict. 'Before confronting your coworkers individually, ask yourself: 'Where is this person coming from?' 'Are they worried about their job?' 'Has something happened that I might not be aware of?' etc.'

Spread positive rumours.

Gossiping about them behind their back, in a good way, may help, Kerr explains. 'If you sincerely believe someone has done something noteworthy then tell other people about it. The positive 'gossip' will get back to them and reflect well on your character.'

Recognise their positive efforts when it's genuine and warranted.

Go a step further and praise them publicly.

'Saying thanks and praising someone for a job well done will always be appreciated and help demonstrate that no matter what's going on at the personal level, you are still able to see and appreciate the positive in any person,' says Kerr. 'Publicly praising them in a meeting will go a long way towards building stronger relationships.'

Take a genuine interest in their work and their lives.

You don't want to put all your time and energy into winning over your colleagues, but an easy way to smooth things over is by occasionally asking about their work projects, how their kids are doing, or anything else that may be going on in their lives (as long as it's appropriate).

If you find that you're not genuinely interested in them, then they may not be worth trying to win over.

Set boundaries.

Bullying behaviour by your colleagues is not ok. It's important for your own self-respect and contentment at work to let others know if and when they have overstepped the limits.

'You can do so by being polite but assertive, explaining your expectations,' says Taylor. 'You don't need difficult people to be your friend, but you will need them to respect your boundaries of acceptable behaviour.'

If they don't respond and you see this behaviour with others, you may discuss it with your boss or HR -- but that should be a last resort.

Be sensitive.

'Being sensitive to the needs of your fellow coworkers is a distinct career advantage, and a key leadership skill,' says Taylor. 'Call it paying it forward or good corporate karma, but those who are confident enough to remain upbeat and friendly, communicate openly, and give colleagues the benefit of the doubt, have a far brighter career future.'

Kerr agrees. 'Rudeness at work is on the rise, so stand out by being consistently thoughtful and polite,' he suggests. 'Mind the basics: say please and thank you, make eye contact, smile, and treat everyone, regardless of their job title, with respect.'

Don't let the issue consume all your time and energy.

There's only so much you can do to turn things around -- and there may come a point where you just need to throw in the towel.

'You can spend a lot of valuable time trying to understand the motives of anyone at work who doesn't like you. And you'll never get that time back,' says Taylor. 'So you're best served to address the situation early and head on so you can move on to more important things. Few people can operate at their best among difficult coworkers, so the onus is on you to make the situation more tolerable -- for your own benefit.'

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