In the United States, about two-thirds of employees are disengaged in their jobs, and the most common reason by far is that they don’t like their boss. We all know that common saying, “People join a company, but leave their boss,” and when we work with companies, we hear this quite often. We also hear bosses complain that they don’t like their employees.

If you don’t like someone else you work with or for, the first thing you need to realize is what you can change and what you can’t. You can’t change the other person, so complaining about them will do nothing except frustrate you. You CAN change how you interact with the person.

Two Positive Examples

An employee was frustrated that their boss seemed to be “disconnected” from mentoring them and managing them. The employee described how when the boss does give her attention, she gets great insights and learns a lot. Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen very often. The employee was ready to leave, but decided it was worth confronting their boss. She told her boss how much she valued her insights and how she wished she would do it more. The boss was moved and said she would try harder. The boss and employee’s relationship improved significantly.

A supervisor noted that one of his employees seemed to always have a negative attitude. He found that the employee seemed to suck his energy out of the room. Before long, the supervisor would work to avoid the employee and communication really began to break down. The supervisor decided that he needed a different approach so he started to engage the employee in a different way. When he asked the employee questions, he realized that the employee just needed some time to think and answer the questions. The employee wasn’t being negative, he just had a very different communication style. The relationship improved significantly.

Two Negative Examples

An employee complains about how a supervisor continuously seems to make bad decisions. The employee tries to work with the supervisor in a variety of ways supporting them and helping them to make better decisions, but nothing seems to work. Finally the employee quits and finds a new job.

This story can also happen with a supervisor who ends up firing an employee, but in both cases, the ending is failure. Or is it?

For a relationship that is too far gone, the best case scenario is a “breakup”. We see many employees move on to become much happier in new jobs working for new teams and we’ve seen supervisors bring in new team members who are a much better fit for the organization.

The worse case scenario is when the “dislike” sticks and nobody does anything about it. This creates an internal toxicity to the team and to the people involved. Nobody takes responsibility, communication doesn’t improve, people get frustrated, and a chance to learn and grow as a person is lost. This is actually the only way that you can fail.

So if you have that person at work you just don’t like, the question is simple: what are YOU going to do to make it better?