Communication Snafu: When You’re Just Not Liked

Clark KentYesterday my dear husband, who is a mild-mannered Clark Kent type that offends no one, was lamenting the fact that one of his bosses simply can’t let go of something that happened a few months ago, which continues to annoy.  The “incident” was not of dire consequences, but was admittedly a judgment error on hubbie’s part.  But after 20+ years of stellar service, isn’t he entitled to one lapse?

So apologies were given, reassurances of no future occurrences were promised, and yet this continues to hang over the relationship.  This brings me to the inevitable “why?” question, and the corollary question of “what can be done to help/remedy/change the situation?”.

The answer to the “why” question – why can’t the boss let this go? – boils down to something rather simple: he doesn’t like him, primarily because they are very different from each other and we like others that are like us.  Now I can hear you saying, “oh that’s not true – there are lots of people that I like that aren’t like me at all! – Heck, my spouse and I are polar opposites, and we love each other”  but I’m going to have you think about those people and you will realize that you have a lot in common with them, common characteristics, common outlooks, common personality traits deep down.  You are not as different as you think, external features aside, and are more alike than different, if you’ve chosen them for close relationships in your life.

The problem occurs when we are forced to interact with other people not of our choosing, i.e. in a work or other associated group environment.  In the beginning we are basically polite, but as time goes on and the differences become more apparent, we choose not to invest in the relationship, because we know it’s just a “work” associate, and we don’t have to really care for that person or spend leisure time with them.  We can make nice, do what it takes just to get by and not rock the boat.

Of course it’s much easier if we like the people we work with, since it makes for a more pleasant and productive work environment.  But what happens when the person is the boss, and s/he is the unenlightened type who doesn’t feel (or realize the benefits) that s/he should like any employee?  When this is the case then, yes, bad feelings and resentments are harbored, under the self-talk of “I never liked that guy, I knew he was a screw-up and I was right!”  And the many years of diligent and loyal service are easily dismissed.

Now I hear you saying, “Naa, when someone is a good and loyal employee and screws up once, it can be overlooked, since that’s not their usual pattern.”  And I would agree, but the caveat is that you have to like them to begin with to overlook an error; you like and recognize their hard work; you like and appreciate their efforts over the years; you like and respect their different style of producing results.  But when these are not in place, you don’t give them the benefit of the doubt.

I once worked with somebody that I didn’t like his style at all – he was bold and brash and not the way that I treated customers or would want to be personally treated if I was his customer.  So I discounted him as not a good performer although in reality I don’t know whether he was really good or not.  He was just different and different should not equal bad.  But too often it does.

So what can my husband to in this case to help the situation?  Unfortunately after 20+ years there is very little he can do, primarily because relationships are a two-way street and if the other party doesn’t want to play, you can’t make anyone change.  So he is rather stuck at this point.  But learning from this experience in the future when a “forced“ relationship is new and important, efforts should be made to be liked early on, before it becomes too late and the feelings are too deeply entrenched to change.

If the relationship is not a forced one, but a chosen relationshop, then it is never too late to make a change as long as both sides are in agreement.  People that like each other, love each other, then grow apart to some state of unlike, or unlove, can still work to change it back when there is still enough caring in place to make a difference.


COMMUNICATION TAKEAWAYIf you are in a “forced” relationship with someone you realize doesn’t like you and it is an important relationship to your job, it behooves you for your future career well-being to take steps to change the dynamic.

1)  Look closely at all of your un-chosen relationships and identify the most important ones

2)   Analyze whether the people in those “power” relationships actually like you enough as a person [this step is not commonly done early on when it’s easiest to bring about a change]

3)  In the cases requiring the other person to modify their perception of you, take steps to get them (clients?) to like you better [for ideas on how read my article ]

Most people just take the easy way out when the boss doesn’t like them and suffer through it, which is miserable, or they change jobs.  There is another solution.

QUESTION: Have you ever experienced a terrible boss?  (Bad bosses are the #1 complaint at work.)

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