How to work with someone you dislike

two-women-arguingIn another existence I was a founder director of an independent television production company. I left because the decision makers at broadcasters couldn’t.

I am still waiting for the green light from the Head of BBC Features who leapt up in enthusiasm about my proposal for six scintillating programmes. He said yes but would let me know when the Controller gave the go-ahead. Which would definitely not be a problem. As I say, still waiting and it’s been years. Of course he drew a sizeable salary each month whereas we poor sods … Sorry to show my still-bitterness.

Anyway, to get back to the point. One of the programmes I produced was for Channel 4, called Executive Coach. The ‘star’ was Jinny Ditzler a much-respected coach to main Boards of blue chip companies both here and in her native US. We followed her in both countries and very impressive she was. One Board in New York was comprised solely of multi-millionaires but sadly they wouldn’t allow us to film their session.

I was particularly interested in one sticky aspect: how to solve the problem of two top professionals both excellent at their respective jobs but who just rubbed each other the wrong way. More, they positively bristled when either was in the room. Both were necessary to the company at the London headquarters but how could they work together?

They called Jinny in to see if she could help or at least diffuse the situation. And she did. This is how.

First she called in one, let’s call him Harry. After putting him at his ease she asked what he thought of some of his colleagues. Each got a positive rating except for, let’s name him William.

Harry, hadn’t a good word to say about William and frankly they were such diametrically different personalities he thought both of them on the Board were so detrimental to the company that one should leave. It was clear who he thought that person should be!

Jinny then brought out a notebook and asked whether William had any good points? A long pause ensued. Well, was he punctual? Asked Jinny. Harry agreed he was. Was William a good negotiator? Yes Harry agreed, he thought he might be. Good with staff? Made good decisions?

After the session Jinny had compiled a long list of William’s positive points and then she did the same exercise with William about his nemesis.

Then she called each man in to read the list that they had compiled about the other.

Finally both of them were in front of her and she said, or words to this effect, ‘both of you have respect for each other’s work which obviously helps the company. But you don’t like each other … And you never will because you are such different personalities.

‘So here’s what should happen,’ said Jinny. ‘At every lunchtime in the Board room you are to sit next to each other and also at company conferences. This means you will not advertise any rift and though you probably won’t like this, it is for the good of the company which aims to be no 1 in its market share. If you fight against each other, this won’t happen because co operation between your departments is key.’

Happy to tell you that this all worked out as Jinny planned. They never did get on personally but professionally they realised they could work together. And that company did get to no 1 in its field.

In every walk of work life there is probably someone, maybe more than one, whom you really can’t get on with in the company but are stuck with because of the job.

So make a list of what they are good at and concentrate on those qualities. You probably will never really like this person. But thinking what they are contributing to the company may make your life easier. And make working with them a tad better.

Food for thought? Yes and action too.

Lady Val
About the author

Lady Val is our Life of a Lady Blogger. Lady Val is also the founder of 'Lady Val's Professional Women's Network.' You can Reach Lady Val on: Life of a Lady Blog, Lady Val's Professional Women's Network

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