When you start a new job or move departments, you often get to meet and work with new people. This can be a great opportunity to learn from individuals more seasoned than you, others who challenge you to think outside of the box, and people who are an all around great time. However, this can also be the time you get stuck on an assignment with that jerk whose mere presence puts you in a bad mood. The reality is that you are not always going to work with people who align with your personality preference. You should, however, be able to have a healthy work relationship with them. I put together a few basic guidelines that have worked for me.


If you work with a few people who you find annoying, just remember that you are at work to do a job. If this individual does not hinder you from doing said job, then you must get over the fact that you don’t “like” them. Everyone is not going to be a person you enjoy being around and that is really okay.

It is, however, important to set boundaries with your colleagues from the very beginning to avoid any confusion on where you stand with them. While it is fine, encouraged even, to be friendly with your co-workers, remember you do not have to be friends. There are going to be scenarios that blur the lines of business and pleasure. This is why it is important to have hardcore boundaries set up from day one.

When a co-worker asks why you have yet to accept their friend request on Facebook, politely set the boundary. Let them know that you don’t like to mix business with pleasure so you don’t allow your co-workers to follow/friend you on social media. You could even go as far as to block them on social media.

Remind them that it is not personal and that you are a private person who wants to limit access solely to close family and friends.
Your co-workers do not need unlimited access to you and furthermore they should not want it. Understand that this will certainly peak their interest so be sure that your profile is an appropriate representation of how you want to be viewed. Direct them to your LinkedIn page instead and that should be enough for them.

Another important boundary to set is the amount of time you spend with your co-workers. Aside from company sponsored events, do not feel obligated to hang out with them outside of the office. You want to be approachable and should make it a point to attend a few office sponsored events throughout the year. However, you do not need to feel bad for skipping Bob’s end of summer barbecue at his house just because everyone else is going. If your regrets to these invitations are met with questions asking “why aren’t you coming?”, no need to make up a lie. Simply remind whomever that you will not be attending because you are limiting your interactions to those that are strictly work related.

Now let’s be clear-if you want to attend these events or get closer to a co-worker- that is perfectly fine. Some of my closest friends are people I once worked with. Many people find their spouses and best friends at work. There can be great deals and opportunities that happen outside of the office. It is, however, important to discern whether or not someone you work with is a person you want to befriend or be friendly with– note the distinction.


If you have to work closely with an individual with whom you are experiencing conflict- you need to address it. Attempt to meet with the individual face to face to discuss it. Invite them to lunch or coffee. Be honest with them, “John I wanted to meet today because I have been sensing some tension between us and wanted to make sure we have a healthy working relationship despite our differences.” Minding your tone and remembering that you are here to do a job is key. Meeting with them away from crowds alleviates the pressure to get defensive. A more relaxed setting can make all the difference. You will find that some people are intense when working and the tension you feel is not personal.

If you meet with this person and find that your personalities still crash, you have to accept that you all are different. Keep interactions with them limited to job related tasks. If you do not have to work with them, then don’t. Maintain a respectful and professional relationship with them, and leave it at that.


People often say, “treat people according to how they treat you.” This is an unproductive approach in the professional world. Instead, be who you are regardless of how you are treated or not treated by others. When I did my first internship I realized that many of the people who worked in my building were raised completely different than me. I was raised to hold the door open if you see someone just a few steps behind you. I was raised to say hello when you enter a room and to smile when you make eye contact. Alas, many of the people in my building had not been raised with these same principles and I quickly learned that. I initially took this personally and wondered why they were being so rude. After taking my personal feelings out of it, I concluded that they were just different than me. I made the decision to say hello to people that I knew would not respond and after a few days of persistence, they began saying it back or giving me a half smile upon making eye contact.


It is important to keep professionalism at the forefront of everything that you do both on and off the job. Ultimately, you are representing your brand and if you get too comfortable and forget this-it could be to your own detriment. When you are getting along with people at work or in your professional networks you can easily create an environment where you or others feel comfortable enough to discuss anything. Either you or the individuals around you can begin to step outside the professional boundaries that you set and this is a dangerous place to be.

If you find yourself at the happy hour with a group of people and the conversation is taking an uncomfortable turn- disengage. I touched on this a bit in a previous blog topic, click here for more tips. It is perfectly fine to openly declare that you do not feel comfortable with where the conversation is going and step away. This doesn’t have to be done in a manner that is rude, again, tone is key. I have said many times, “Oh no- I am not going there”, or “This is getting a little too deep for me.” Politely direct people back to the appropriate safe zones as needed. If ever someone steps out of line with you- it must be addressed. This should be done using the conflict resolution steps from above, but if these behaviors go unchecked- it could make for a hostile work environment.

I have held many jobs in my life and at every one of them there have been people who were not my cup of tea. Never let personality differences stand in the way of you doing your job effectively. Many of us spend more time at work than with our loved ones, so if you are in conflict with someone at work- make a solid attempt at resolution. Some of those people whose personalities grind your gears could be the very people you should be shadowing and learning from. Keep an open mind, be respectful, set boundaries, and keep it moving.

What are some things that have worked for you when working with difficult people? Let me know in the comments how you deal with that one co-worker you cannot stand while keeping it professional.


  1. Thank you for that blog Courtney. I found it very helpful and useful as i just started working at a new place. The people there are very friendly and welcoming but of course some take longer than others to be warm and friendly. I just keep my smile and my friendliness every morning, even when i say good morning to someone and they act like they haven’t heard me. I have come to realize and understand that we all have good and bad days and not everyone can separate their personal lives from their professional lives by leaving their stress or depression at home. So i maintain who i am and remind myself that it’s not personal (unless the person says it is or confronts me) and we are workmates and not friends.

    1. Thank you Hephzibah! I am so glad this was helpful. I used to be so sensitive and would take it really personally and think people didn’t like me. I quickly realized some people just have different communication styles and that it was nothing personal. I remind myself that I have amazing friends already, if I don’t make new friends at work- that’s perfectly fine.

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