You can try, but sadly, you can’t be friends with everyone you work with.

That’s ok.

Working with others isn’t always easy. There are many factors at play such as ego, differences in personality, creativity, values, and just plain old “I-don’t-like-that-guy!” However, as painful as it can be to have to work with someone you don’t like, it’s worse not being able to get your work done.

Recently, I came across such a scenario in my own work as a photographer. It was illuminating, to say the least and I took it as an opportunity to learn something about myself and about working with others. I’d like to share what I learned with you.

You have to know know why you’re not getting along.

Sometimes it’s hard to pin down exactly what it is you don’t like about someone. It’s that feeling of getting “rubbed the wrong way.” However, just saying that you don’t like someone isn’t enough, nor is it fair.

Maybe they said or did something in passing you just didn’t care for. Maybe you find them to be rude or abrasive. Maybe you find them lazy or that they’re not pulling their own weight on the project you’re working on together.

Whatever it may be, however small or petty, just figure out why you don’t like them so you can learn to deal with them and move on.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what you don’t like about someone because changing them to fit your ideals isn’t something you can do. You can’t change someone’s personality or their behavior. That’s not up to you.

However, when you know exactly what you don’t like about someone, you can at least learn to manage your own feelings towards them instead of just blindly labeling them as someone you don’t like. This leads to a better understanding of yourself and a healthier working relationship with others.

Take on a challenge together.

If you just can’t get over your negative feelings towards someone and you’re on the verge of exploding, it’s best to not force yourself to like them. You’ll only grow more bitter and dissatisfied.

Instead, focus on something you have in common: your work. Just work together to achieve a single goal and see what that feels like. By allowing yourselves to interact only about the project, you limit your exposure to any negative feelings you may have towards them personally and you’ll at least have a chance to prove yourselves to one another. There’s nothing like a challenge that brings out a person’s true character.

When your project is over and you’re done working with each other, at least you’ll have a better understanding of what they are truly made of and perhaps even find something to respect about them. If nothing else, then at the very least you got something done together and have proven, that if the time came once again, you’ll be able to work together without tearing each other’s heads off.

They are here for a reason, just like you.

Whether you like it or not, the fact that you’re working together means you have at least something in common. You might be thinking that life would be so much better if they weren’t around but the truth is, your bosses or the people around you see value in this person (just like they see value in you).

Instead of dismissing them as someone you just can’t get along with, try to pivot your negative feelings towards them into a more positive outlook. Try to envision how those perceived negative traits have helped them get this far in their career. Try to see what the others see in them.

For instance, maybe they are abrasive or rude because it has gotten them results in the past (Steve Jobs had a reputation of being a ruthless boss). Or maybe they only seem lazy because they’re very efficient at their job. Or maybe their personality is the key to their unique work.

Give credit where credit is due. Find their value in your team and avoid letting your negative feelings towards someone prevent you from giving them the respect they deserve. If you’re lucky, you might find that you have more to learn from them than you may have initially thought.

Eat Together

This sounds weird, but this is something I truly believe.

There’s nothing that brings people closer together more effectively than sitting down and having a meal. You don’t have to talk. You don’t even have to look at each other. But there’s something about eating together that seems to put all of our negativity and ill will to rest, even if it’s just for the length of the meal.

It makes sense when you think about it. Other than sleep (where you don’t have to interact with anyone), eating is the most natural human function. Feeding ourselves is literally the only thing that every person in the world has in common. We all have to eat sometime.

Therefore, when you’re having trouble relating to one of your co-workers, sit down and have a meal together. It will feel awkward and maybe even difficult at first but pretty soon, you may find yourselves talking and interacting more naturally, allowing for a more harmonious — and even friendly — working relationship.

In my work as a freelancer and being a naturally shy person, I’ve always kept the people I work with at arms length. I just don’t open up as easily as people expect and most people perceive my standoffish nature as unfriendly or people think I’m a snob.¬†However, when it’s time to eat, I always make it a point to sit with everyone else because having a meal together is an opportunity to interact with people outside the pretense of “work.” This way, I get a better understanding of the people I’m working with and they get to do the same with me without even really trying.

Final Thoughts

There will be instances when you just won’t see eye to eye with someone you’re working with. Your values will be different. The things that motivate you will be different. Your views will be different. You personalities will just be different.

However, that doesn’t mean that you should just give up on producing good work while you’re working with them. You can’t let the negativity pollute your creativity. As creatives, we are often driven by our passions and our love for what we do. If a coworker or colleague is making you hate your work, then we must learn to mitigate how their behavior affects us because we can’t expect them to change for our sake.¬†Hopefully, I was able to share some helpful tips with you on working with others.

Let us know what you think in the comments section below.


Isaac is the Co-Founder and Chief Editor of Design Instruct. He has experience in various design and art related fields including design, illustration, and photography. He's in charge of making sure that Design Instruct publishes high quality content that professional designers and digital artists demand and expect. Get in touch via email and on Twitter as @designinstruct or @IAMTHEGUBE.