October 2, 2009 • Athletic Administration

How to Work with Someone You Don’t Like

No matter how positive, enthusiastic, fair and conscientious you are, you may have to work with a few individuals who cause you problems. They could be naysayers, complainers, backstabbers, overbearing … well, you get the idea.

While we all would prefer the ideal work situation, where we would enjoy being around everyone, it doesn’t often work that way. In your position, you really don’t have a choice and you may have to work with someone who really gets under your skin.

These obnoxious, abrasive and aggravating people can take the form of many different kinds of individuals. No, we’re not just talking about a few coaches. You may have to work with parents, administrators, a teacher or two, and other athletic directors who cause problems and totally test your patience, understanding and good will.

However, regardless of how you truly feel about an individual, you may still have to work with him. The secret, therefore, is to develop an approach or mindset that will allow you to continue to function effectively in your role as the athletic director.

This is especially important with respect to your relationship with your principal and fellow athletic directors. Why? With coaches, for example, you are still in charge and are their boss. Also, with parents and teachers, you are in the position to control many of the variables involved with your interaction. However, the principal is your boss, and, as a result, he does control your future.

When it comes to other athletic directors who might be extremely irritating, there are situations in which you may have no choice but to work with them. The very nature of your position, the responsibilities, and the many tasks involved require that you interact with them. For example, in order to schedule or reschedule games, you absolutely have to deal with all AD’s – even obnoxious and rude ones.

To survive in your position, you thus have to develop an approach to the individuals you don’t like. Ideas that may help you deal with someone who irritates the heck out of you:

1. Remain professional, even under the most trying circumstances. This means being civil and courteous, even though this may take extra effort on your part. You should never sink to the level of an irritating person, and often this may be exactly how this individual hopes you will react.

2. Treat an aggravating person with the same fairness that you would use with anyone else. In spite of your best efforts, this problematic individual may never feel that he is treated the same as others. Nevertheless, by being fair to all and being able to document your decisions and effort, you should always prevail.

3. Maintain the same expectations for this misguided person as you would with anyone else you come in contact with. This means that they also have to treat you with the same respect and courtesy.

You should never accept rude treatment or inappropriate language. If this type of behavior does ever occur, you should clearly, firmly and politely explain that this is unacceptable and walk away.

4. Consult others to get a sense of this difficult person if he causes problems and negative feelings. Chances are that the problematic individual is also getting under other people’s skin, and you should be able to get some valuable insight and suggestions for coping mechanisms. It can also be comforting to know that you are not alone.

5. Avoid individuals who cause you to become agitated, except when your responsibilities absolutely require contact with them. Even with official business, you might be able to replace face-to-face interaction with an e-mail message – lessening the negative impact that this person may have.

6. Plan and prepare for those situations whenever contact with unpleasant people cannot be avoided. Find the time and get rid of them as quickly as possible. This should also decrease the possibility of being upset or agitated by this individual.

7. Script out your comments for any potentially contentious meeting with irritating people. This effort will give you more confidence and the ability to partially control the conversation instead of being subjected to the manipulation and agendas of the other party.

8. Explore other alternatives, if at all possible. (You don’t want to work directly with someone who causes you problems and headaches.) If she is a member of a group, see if you can possibly deal with someone else in the organization. This shouldn’t be too difficult to arrange and should make your life a little more manageable.

9. Find suitable and acceptable ways to release your emotions whenever one of these difficult people does push the wrong button and agitates you. While counting to ten may not work for extremely difficult situations, taking a 10-minute walk may do the trick. Additional problems will be created if you vent your frustration and anger with other innocent, uninvolved people. That means you still will have to find a way to calm down and regain your composure before going back to work.

10. Be grateful and cherish all of the good, positive individuals that you come in contact with on a daily or weekly basis. They definitely constitute the great majority. Laugh and enjoy the interactions that you will be sharing during the time that you are meeting, working, or conversing with them. Don’t let one or two difficult individuals ruin your very important efforts.

It would be great if you liked everyone you had to deal with as an AD. Unfortunately, this may be somewhat out of your control and not always possible. You can, however, control how you respond and possibly the amount of contact that you may have with disagreeable individuals.

Ultimately, it is possible to work with someone you don’t like with a little thought and effort on your part.

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