One of the most painful things we go through as a child is being in a group that makes us feel like an outsider. Unwanted and different in some important way. And the same holds true as we grow up. Even at work. Hearing someone say “my coworkers don’t like me” breaks my heart.
We deserve to have people like us. And recognize those parts of us that are special — even if we are different in some way. In fact, that difference may arise from the very same source that also creates our unique talents.
So what if you do feel your coworkers don’t like you?
Well, of course how you proceed depends on why your coworkers don’t like you. And even whether what you are perceiving (not being liked) is the whole story. Maybe they do like you.
While you might be reading the cues perfectly, it’s also worth looking at things a little more closely. Maybe you’re not seeing the whole picture. Maybe they basically do like you, but perhaps something you do — or don’t do — gets in the way.
Or there might even be certain social cues you’re not fully aware of. Norms that help people feel welcoming to others that you just don’t connect to easily. Like being too standoffish. Or being too overly friendly. As weird as that sounds, either can get you left out of the core group.
But rather than worrying too much about special quirks you might have (we all have them), the answer usually involves adding more emphasis to socially-rewarded traits & behaviors. You don’t have to be in the core group to still leave a generally likable impression. And vice versa, btw.
Not saying you ignore the annoying stuff coworkers don’t like
We probably can think of one or two people we know with traits that eclipse all else they may offer us. And the trick is not to bury the good stuff underneath an overwhelming behavior.
Not to deny who you are, but you want to learn to manage any overwhelmingly annoying things in a way that is balanced. Otherwise they can eclipse your more socially welcome qualities / contributions. And they can get in the way of coworkers truly liking you.
Someone I know calls it “dialing it down”. You don’t eliminate it. Just don’t let it take over and become who you are. Or how people see you no matter how many good things you do.
Kinds of things coworkers don’t like
So that I help you recognize what might be getting in your way, here are a few things to look for. (Feel free to suggest more below.) And, if you feel brave, ask someone you trust to also offer some ideas.
- Always keeping to yourself — I’m an introvert, so I love going off in a corner to do my work. But most people are not introverts, and they trust people more if you make efforts to be social. Even just a little.
- Being too much — Some people don’t realize how much space they take up. And I don’t mean size. I mean they have to dominate the conversation. Or always have an opinion, without really listening to other people’s thoughts or ideas.
- Glory hounds — You take credit for more than what you did. Or you need to carefully make every single thing you did known. There’s a trick to making sure people recognize your contributions without seeming full of yourself.
- Complainers & whiners — Some people let us know every time they are upset. Or every single thing that goes wrong in their day. But if you look at how that comes off to others, it’s negative. People don’t enjoy working with Negative Nellies — even if your ideas are brilliant.
- Leeches — I know. A terrible thing to call anyone. But some people glom on to coworkers without sensing they aren’t wanted. At least not so often. (See previously referenced article about being too overly friendly.)
- Gossips — In line with the previous section, gossips rarely share happy news. So, even if you have eager listeners, they still see you as a negative person. And someone who can’t be trusted with THEIR secrets.
- Critics! — Even if you think you’re being helpful, check to see how you’re delivering your ideas. No one likes a critic. So make sure you deliver enough positive messages to add an occasional suggestion. But never in a way that says “You’re doing that all wrong.”
Accentuate the positive. Eliminate (or dial down) the negative!
Some useful workplace qualities you can dial UP
While making an effort to become more aware of how we might be overdoing the negative (or simply annoying people), it helps to also add to your “coworker I want to work with” stats. A few examples. Feel free to add more:
- Pitch in without expecting applause for your efforts.
- Show coworkers you appreciate them — without getting sappy.
- Look to improve things at work that others will also get benefit from.
- Give credit where credit is due.
- Be a person people can turn to when things get tough.
- Participate in social events, even if it’s difficult for you. You don’t have to do a lot. Just hang out and say hi to someone once in a while.
- Maybe be the person with candy or occasional treats on your desk.
- Look for skills that are really needed and become the go-to person for that skill. (In many places, it might be tech stuff.)
- Also, if you have a talent (like art or writing) that you don’t usually use, look for ways to offer those skills to projects or special events. (This will require you getting in the loop somehow to know what’s going on.)
- And if you haven’t made any allies at work yet, slowly try to win over someone who can help bring you into the mainstream.
- Finally, don’t be shy about mentioning this to your boss. They might be able to suggest things or give useful feedback. Be open to what they say. And check in once in a while to help them see your progress.
What if coworkers don’t like you anyway?
While I strongly urge people to try to make a job work, sometimes it’s just a bad fit. The best you can do if that’s the case, is learn from where you are.
And then piece together the qualities / environment you’d want to find in an ideal job. Aim (target) your resume in that direction, and go get yourself to a place you match better!
And just in case you do need to leave
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