Positive Actions to Take If You Think Your Employee Doesn’t Like You

If you have a direct report that puts out strong vibes of dislike for you it can be unsettling. Especially if you have no clue why they might be feeling that way.

Here are some strategies for working through this painful scenario. At best, you will resolve the root cause issue and be on the path to a positive relationship with them. At worst, you may need to accept that they may never like you – or even let them go if their disdain begins to affect the team’s quality of work. Make sure you take time to analyze these two key questions before you take action.

What is the root cause?

  • Can you link the perceived attitude to a specific event or incident?
  • Do you think they are projecting this feeling on you because they are unhappy about something other than you/your style of leadership?
  • What do your peers, manager or coach think might be the issue?

Is this a mountain or a molehill?

  • Is their disdain for you overt & subordinate, or subtle & passive aggressive?
  • Do their feelings about you impact the work or the team in a negative way?
  • Do other team members demonstrate the same dislike for you? (Is this a pattern?)

If your analysis indicates this is an issue with only one team member who is behaving passively aggressively and is likely related to a single specific concern:

  1. Have an informal conversation with the team member to uncover the issue and discuss how to resolve it. The goal is to uncover the issue and  get their recommendations, not just to let them vent. Consider using some of following questions:
    • How are things going for you at work?
    • What is challenging you right now that I might be able to help you with?
    • What do you need from me to help you be successful and happy at work?
    • What recommendations do you have for me to improve our team?
  2. Demonstrate appreciation for their work, efforts, and/or feedback.
  3. Learn what their communication style is so you can adapt your behavior.
  4. Check yourself: Are you consistent and fair with this team member?

If your analysis indicates this is a more pervasive issue involving multiple team members and is impacting the team:

  1. Seek advice from a trusted peer, manager or coach as you prepare to talk to the team members(s) who are demonstrating frustration.
  2. Conduct a coaching meeting with the team member and demonstrate compassion, interest and an open-mind. If the issue is severe, you may want to involve someone from Human Resources.
  3. Identify a few things they are doing well so you can go into this conversation with a balanced mindset.
  4. Consider communication style(s) and think about the best way to approach the conversation so that a clash in styles doesn’t interfere with the meaning. If you don’t know your team members’ styles use a fun activity like this to learn.
  5. Work with them to develop and document a strategy to improve the relationship.
  6. View this as an opportunity for you to grow. What can you learn from this experience? How might you need to develop your own management or leadership skills?

 Sometimes you just have to accept that there is nothing you can do about the way a team member feels about you. As long as they are performing and their behavior is not impacting the team, you may need to let it go. This is not an easy thing to accept if you value relationships, but it is important that you don’t allow it to get the best of you. If you make genuine efforts to build trust, communicate openly and take the high road, you should be able to sleep well at night.

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