Managing an Employee You Don’t Like

We all wish we could always work with people who we enjoying hanging out with.  Not only is that rarely a reality, it is actually bad for performance if everyone is friends – nobody wants to be the bearer of bad news with their buddies – and teams end up doing stupid things (think Bay of Pigs stupid).     


It is important to be aware of how your bias towards someone you have a personality clash with might keep them from performing at their peak.  Here are a few things to consider:


Is it a performance issue or an interpersonal issue?  There are pretty straightforward HR answers to a performance issue.  If it is an interpersonal issue you still need to be a fair boss and manage the person effectively.


Look at your “stuff”.  Is the person a member of a group you have a conscious or unconscious problem with or do they remind you of someone in your past you didn’t like? This question could bring up a litany of racial, sexual or gender legal issues.  The easy answer is to gloss over it and say “no, no of course not”.  You need to be really honest with yourself.  If your bias is getting in the way of your team’s success, it is on your plate to address it.


Use your poker face.  When we don’t like someone it is easy to judge their ideas and comments negatively before we even think about it and it can show all over our face.  When someone feels judged negatively they are going to stop sharing and their work will suffer.  Don’t create an environment where someone is living down to your expectations.   


Judge an idea on its merit, not who came up with it. Ask yourself this question, “What would I think of this idea if it came from my favorite employee?” You don’t want a team full of “yes-men”.  And that employee who rubs you the wrong way is likely to be the person who notices the flaws and shortcomings in your ideas.  Consider that they might be the nudging voice that makes your team stronger.


Inoculate your team.  A doctor or a dentist will often say “a small pinch” right before they give a shot. If your team consciously recognizes that someone is abrasive but doesn’t mean to be nasty it can take away the sting.  Have a conversation as a team about how ideas are shared and how our minds can turn things into personal insults that really aren’t.


Offer coaching.  It could be that the person has really good ideas and insights but doesn’t have the interpersonal skills to share them effectively.  Emotional intelligence is a learnable skill and can make the difference in having an annoying team member and having someone whose brilliant ideas are heard and implemented.  A business coach who is skilled in helping someone see the benefit of thinking about how they say things could make all the difference.


Having someone you don’t like on your team can be a growth opportunity for you as a manager.  As long as the person is doing their job, they are likely beneficial to your team.  Focus on things they do well and work around the aspects that annoy you to get the greatest benefit from their potential.


As always, I wish you the MOST from your potential!

Doc Robyn

Dr. Robyn Odegaard (aka “Doc Robyn”) is internationally known conflict resolution expert, motivational speaker and executive wordsmith.  As CEO of Champion Performance Development, she works with executives, professionals, athletes, and coaches to help them achieve excellence in all aspects of life through active leadership, powerful teamwork, effective communication, Productive Conflict™ and professional disagreement skills  She is the founder of the Stop The Drama! Campaign and author of the books Stop The Drama! The Ultimate Guide to Female Teams and The Ultimate Guide to Handling Every Disagreement Every Time.  To work with her one-on-one, have her work with your team, request a custom workshop or invite her to speak at your event, email her at or call 302-307-3091.

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