This topic makes me think of the Taylor Swift song where she sings, “Someday I’ll be livin’ in a big ol’ city and all you’re ever gonna be is mean.” Whether you’re in school or in the workplace as an adult, there is always going to be someone who is mean. Learning to coexist and work with this person can be the secret sauce you need to succeed. Here’s how to do it.
Start by considering the motivation. What does this person have to gain from being mean to you? Are they competing for a similar promotion? Are they jealous? Do you remind them of someone they don’t like?
Competition: If the person feels like he/she needs to compete with you for something they want, you may need to find a win win situation. How can you help each other? Competition can be healthy when it encourages both of you to be better and work for what you want, but when it becomes a win/lose situation it can add stress to the relationship. How can you switch the perspective so that both of you can win in some way?
Jealousy: This one is really hard to see especially when you’re driven. All you see is what you have yet to achieve. The other person might be seeing something that you have that they want instead. Maybe you have what seems like the perfect life or family, or you always are getting accolades at work. First off, take this as a compliment! Second, is there a way that you can make that person feel built up? For example, is there something they have that you envy a bit? If so, maybe mentioning their great qualities or situation casually might help them feel like you’re on the same playing field. Remember to focus on the positives here. You don’t have to rag on what you have so they feel better, focus on what they have that you can build up.
Reminders: One of the best pieces of advice I’ve gotten is from when I was in sales. I was told that “not everyone is going to like you. Some people just won’t like you and there’s nothing you can do about it.” This was meant to be an indicator to bring in another sales person or ask for help from my manager, but it also applies to co-workers. You might remind someone of their dentist and they hate going to the dentist. Or maybe you remind them of a kid from school who was mean to them. It may not be conscious and have nothing to do with you. Try to build a relationship. If they know more about you, it may help to separate you from the person that they’re associating with you.
There are many reasons why someone might be mean to you at work. Try some of these solutions to take some of the tension out of the situation. If they don’t work, are there ways you can work around? Remember, you have the capability to see the problem and try some solutions to create an amicable work environment. Nothing is unsolvable.
“Someday I’ll be big enough so you can’t hit me and all you’re ever gonna be is mean.”