You’ve got someone on your team who you just … don’t … like. It’s not about their work; it’s a personal clash. Maybe their personality grates on you, or they remind you of a despised ex, or there’s just something about them that gets under your skin. How do you fairly and effectively manage someone who you really don’t like spending time with?
1. Admit the problem to yourself. Too often, when managers dislike a direct report, they avoid looking at the situation head-on and instead allow the dislike to remain a vague feeling in the back of their head that they don’t examine too closely. You might think that’s better than focusing explicitly on your dislike of the staff member, but it usually ends up meaning that the person is at a disadvantage that you’re not even aware of or focused on remedying. The issue will be there whether you acknowledge it or not, so you’re better off admitting it to yourself and figuring out what to do about it.
2. Realize that you don’t need to like everyone you manage. It’s okay to have people on your team who you wouldn’t choose to spend time with if it weren’t for work. In fact, it can be better in some ways; it might mean that your team gets more diverse viewpoints and ways of seeing the world. What really matters is how your team members are contributing to your team’s overall results, and that’s what you should focus on. How does this person benefit your team? What strengths do they bring? What contributions are they making? Try to keep those things in the forefront of your mind.
3. Be deliberate and fair in your treatment of the person. As a manager, the people you like probably get more of your time: more mentoring, more development help, more brainstorming on work challenges. You’ll need to be deliberate about making sure that you’re not shutting out the disliked employee from these advantages. You’ll also need to be vigilant about making sure that you’re not assigning projects or responsibilities based on who you like more. (This is really hard to do when you’re not focused on the problem, which is why #1 is so important.)
4. Make sure the reasons you don’t like them aren’t actually work-related. It’s possible that your dislike is purely personal, but make sure that’s truly the case. Sometimes personal dislike can develop when someone is making your job harder (for example, undermining you or refusing to take feedback) or turning in lower quality work. If that’s what’s behind your dislike, those are work issues and you should address them as such.
5. Spend more time with the person. It sounds counterintuitive, and it certainly won’t always work, but sometimes working together more closely and getting to know the person better can uncover things that you do appreciate about them – or at least it can give you a better understanding of where they’re coming from, which can make you feel more warmly toward the person.