Getting Along With Someone You Dislike

A question to Ask the Workplace Doctors: How do you put up with working with someone you don’t get along with?

I work at a small grocery store. I have worked here for about 8 months now and I have never gotten along with my one manager, who is always mean and rude to me for no reason. She does petty things like always putting me on the busiest register, yelling at me for dumb things, and not sticking up for me when there have been rude costumers. It got to the point where I had to change my whole work schedule to not have to work with her. But I still end up working with her for a little bit or always seeing her at work.  –Signed  Don’t Get Along

Dear  Don’t Get Along:

Bosses are problems. Their job is to assign who does what and when. Some give up on pleasing employees. They find it easier to make decisions about assignments and they rationalize that is their job. You say one of your managers is “mean and rude to me for no reason” and she “yells” at you.” More than that, she doesn’t back you when customers are rude. You have partially solved this by changing your schedule to avoid her. 

What you don’t say is what happened at specific times in which she was mean and rude–what were her words and tone. Nor  do you describe how you responded. Did you give her a mean look back? Did you speak up for yourself?

Should you advise someone like you in a similar situation, what would you say? Of course, our site cannot know or feel as you do. The best we can do is to help you look at your particular situation from a distance perspective. That means seeing the picture from this little grocery store from the general manager’s perspective–as to how the business is doing, finding enough capable employees at the level of pay the store can afford, and how to satisfy its customers. 

Our challenge is to help you think through what prompted this one manager’s meanness–what transpired and what are your options. I’ll suggest several for you to consider

  1. Bite your tongue and avoid Manager Mean. Things will be better for you that way.
  2. Suppose you were an outside investigator who was hired to make this grocery store more successful? One aspect of that would be having happy employees. The outside consultant would observe and interview all employees. Then would your recommendation be to fire her or is there way to retrain her? 
  3. You could report this one mean manager to the general manager. 
  4. Take a one-on-one approach. Frankly describe situations you saw her as mean and rude. You could ask for reasons she gives for what she does. She probably would tell you what she disliked about you. And together you might talk about what you each might do to work together smoothly.
  5. Take an indirect approach. Think team–together everyone achieves more. Talk with the general manager about teamwork.  The odds are if you requested a meeting with the  general manager, she/he would ask if you liked working there and had any suggestions to make the store better. Here is not where you should unload on this mean manager. Rather you could then mention things you see that might cut wasted supplies, time, energy and improving customer satisfaction. Improving communication workers like you and managers would become one of those things that lead to cutting waste and pleasing customers. If the talk with the general manager progressed the way it can, you could compare achieving teamwork in the grocery to achieving teamwork in sports teams you have been on. That would entail skull sessions for different workgroups to talk about how things are going and what might make them better. That’s what teams do before and after games.

I’ll not say more, except to challenge you to talk about talk–how you might communicate harmoniously. If you think it worth it, you can do more than bite your tongue and avoid meanness. Let me know if any of these options make sense and if you see any value in my signature sentence: Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS. 

–William Gorden