- Assess whether the negative feelings are affecting the person’s work. If not, it might not be worth doing anything about the relationship at all.
- Find informal opportunities to connect with the employee without an agenda. Probe to get a better understanding of what’s going on: “What do you need from me as your manager?” “How could I make things better for you?” “How would you like to work together?”
- Make sure you’ve positioned the person to succeed. Have you provided clear and reasonable expectations, support and coaching, and the resources they need to do their job? Don’t assume…ask! Listen openly for feedback that would help you be a better manager.
- Tune in to your behavior and identify any areas where you might inadvertently be having a negative impact on your direct report. If there’s someone you trust, ask for their advice. “What’s your perception of my relationship with Helen?” “How could I improve our connection?”
- Find other people who can fulfill your need to be liked. It’s important not to let one person’s opinion detract from your self-esteem.
Just as important as what you do when an employee doesn’t like you is what you shouldn’t do. Knee-jerk reactions or retaliatory moves are petty and short-sighted. Avoid the following:
- Be overly harsh or critical of the person. It’s not part of their job description to like you so stick to evaluating them objectively. Use feedback from others to round out your performance reviews.
- Start being more lenient on the person to try to win their affection. That will cause others to lose respect for you.
- Change who you are or pretend to be someone you’re not. That will feel forced and will detract from an authentic relationship. Even if it works with the person who doesn’t like you, it could backfire with other people.
- Be passive-aggressive or involve other members of the team in your relationship issues. Sarcasm or comments under your breath are a big no-no. Take the high road.
- Worry too much about it. You’re not going to be friends with everyone who works for you. And remember, sometimes our feelings for someone change as we get a little more distance from the situation. Who knows, you might end up being the boss that person credits with changing their career!
There is a pretty wide range of emotions your employee might have toward you; from minor dislike to major disdain. If it’s just a distaste for your style (or your jokes, wardrobe, choice of meeting snacks), you might not need to do anything. If it’s outright hatred and your relationship is forever soured, you need to find another spot for the person. But if there is something wrong with the relationship that’s worth fixing, try these dos and don’ts and see if the relationship improves.
What did I miss? Add your dos and don’ts in the comments.