Psychology Colleague1

Published on December 5th, 2012


How to Cope with the Colleague who Dislikes you

By Joachim Vogt Isaksen

Some of you may have experienced the following situation: a colleague at work has a great dislike for you no matter how nice you are toward him. The following article will give you some ideas on how to resolve such a personality conflict.

Self-esteem & ego

There are two concepts that are of importance when it comes to personal relationships, namely self-esteem and ego. These are not synonyms, but are rather negatively correlated. The higher self-esteem you have, the smaller is your ego.

Self-esteem is in essence how good and confident you feel about yourself. This is dependent on how much you feel that you are in control. Ego is the part of us that seeks self-respect from other people.

Let us illustrate this with an example. If you are a Professor and somebody calls you stupid, chances are that you will get less offended than say a school drop-out would. The reason is that you know that you are not stupid (because you are a Professor), so you have pretty high self-esteem and do not need to seek self-respect from others on this field.

However, if someone criticized your smell or clothing, even you as a Professor can become offended, because fashion sense and good smell are not necessarily required for becoming a Professor. In this field you might not have such good self-esteem, which brings your ego into play (the need for constant confirmation from others). If we are embarrassed by others in a field with which we lack confidence, we loose control and thus our ego is hurt.


Why does not my colleague like me?

Let us move back to the problem with your critical colleague. There may be a few specific reasons that he dislikes you, even though you have never done anything wrong toward him. More than likely your colleague is suffering from low self-esteem (and thus having a great ego).

- He could feel threatened by you. Maybe he perceives you as more successful than him, which causes jealousy. He will then notice unfavorable (in his eyes) aspects of you and recognizes them as arrogance or impatience.

- He may see aspects or traits in you that remind him of things he dislikes about himself.

- It could be that he believes that you dislike him. The reason might seem trivial, like for example, that you have overlooked him or made a face which he misinterpreted.

It could also be a combination of the above mentioned factors. In essence, the main reason that your colleague dislikes you may be because of his inflated ego (unless you have really done something wrong against him).


What you can do to better the relationship

You may be dealing with a person with low self-esteem, so a good idea could be to feed his ego. There are basically three ways of doing this:

- You can tell a mutual friend or colleague that you really like, admire, and respect the critical person. The reason you should do this through a third person is that when the message reaches your troublesome colleague, it will be more strong and believable than if it came directly from you. The reason this might work is that it is psychologically difficult to dislike someone who likes you.

- Ask the person to do you a favor. It seems counterintuitive, but people tend to form more favorable impressions of people they help, than of people who help them.

- Tell this person something embarrassing about yourself. This way you will become less threatening to this person.




Further reading:


Lieberman, David J. (2002). Make Peace with Anyone: Breakthrough Strategies to Quickly End any Conflict, Feud, or Estrangement. New York: St. Martin’s Press.




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