Any Tips for Dealing With People You Can't Stand?

A friend writes:

In my job, I have to deal with a few people I really can’t stand. Most of my co-workers are fine, and they are good at their jobs. The people I can’t stand aren’t good at their jobs but they are good at ingratiating themselves with the top bosses. When I say I “can’t stand” them, I should explain that this feeling started out professionally. I got frustrated at how lazy and sloppy and stupid they are in their work. But then my feelings snowballed and now I can’t stand them personally either. But it’s not that big of a company and I have to deal with all of them all the time, especially in meetings. I would love to hit them in the faces with frying pans but I don’t think that is a good idea. Any useful and hopefully peaceful suggestions?

This note caught my attention because we have just begun working on a podcast about spite. I am eager to hear your suggestions.


This is sort of like having lousy in-laws in that you just have to deal with it.
I would find a coworker who shares your disdain and complain/commiserate with them. Keep your complaining confined to just this person and maybe limit it to specific times. If you can't contain your disdain it will poison your entire work experience and if you bring it home you risk driving your friends and family crazy with your negativity.
Finally, try to remember the pain of dealing with imbeciles is temporary.


I beg to differ; under no circumstances should you ever share your feelings with another coworker. I can assure you, with a very high degree of certainty, whatever you confess to a coworker will be used against you. Period. I do not suggest that you merely "grin and bear it". Do tell someone; perhaps a close friend who does not, nor ever plans to, work with you. Or in the same industry, for that matter.

You do need to look on the bright side. No one is worthless; every body does have worth

Myles Mayne

The more we find to dislike in people the easier it becomes to dislike them and to justify our dislike of them. Not surprisingly these people will themselves be aware of your feelings towards them. The way the two of you act or respond to each other is likely to make the situation worse and in this you both unconsciously collude in adding fuel to the fires of dislike.

The solution may be long in coming. It however stands no chance of materialising unless at least one person accepts that this is an unhealthy state of affairs and seeks to understand what is going on. Curiosity serves well to start looking at the situation and then understanding the obvious fact that it is easier to change yourself than it will ever be to change someone else.


We must be kind publicly to those who deserve the frying pan because anyone who is an expert to sucking up to the boss is probably also an expert at highlighting the faults of others. Treat their laziness and sloppiness as a vehicle to have your ideas included where they dropped the ball. "We might want to address" and "We may want to add" would be appropriate ways to diplomatically fill in the holes in their work without seeming snarky. I can't stand laziness myself so I am completely sympathetic. I wish you the best of luck. Vigorous exercise several times a week might be helpful in letting go of your stress, too.

Jeff Dalton

I can completely empathize with your friends feelings. I believe we all have people in our lives that we have irrational feelings towards. Right now I have this with a person that on the surface would be considered a super great person. But, because this person has a very strict idology that differs from mine I can't stand to be in the same room as this person.

So what I have started doing is thinking one good thought about the person everytime I see them. If in a meeting with them I think of one good thought about every 15 minutes. I try to vary the good thought so I really put some effort into coming up with something.

I do not recommend this for everyone, but so far for me it has helped a lot.


Usually our feelings of frustration with other people are 'shadows' of our self. The things that bother us about others are the qualities/traits that we also have but try our best to suppress. All of these qualities together make up our 'shadow.' For you, you strive to be productive and do your job avoid being lazy or doing sloppy work. But your shadow may be your inner voice that wants to not always put forth your best effort. We usually see these qualities in others more obviously because they are reflections of our shadows.
If we can recognize this, we can use it to our advantage. Knowing this is a personal response to someone's behavior that is spurred by our own desires/actions allows us to channel the energy or our emotion differently. Instead of getting annoyed with the coworker, we can discover their strengths and help them bring those out. When someone is doing work they feel they can excel at, they perform better and are more pleasing to be around. This would also demonstrate your leadership skills. Channeling negative perceptions into positive ones will allow you to feel less stressed about the situation or person and help the other person gain opportunities to prove they are not lazy/sloppy. See where you can help this person grow instead of avoiding them because of their poorer qualities. Discover your shadow.



Develop a sense if humor and laugh at them internally.


But whatever you decide to do, do NOT give in to the temptation to hit them in the face with frying pans. You can scratch the non-stick surface, which will then start to flake off over time.

Please learn from my experience. Look for more durable household items.


feelings of irritation occur in you, and are your problem to fix not the problem of whomever you are feeling irritated by. No one sets out in the morning to try to be obnoxious, lazy or insensitive. If you have a problem, it's up to you to fix it, not them.


Sometimes it is the other person, but only you can fix the situation.

For example, try dealing with a narcissist.

My default response for dealing with people that bug me is to maintain a safe operating distance (stay away from them), get a buffer (have 2 or more other people present to absorb the irritations), and go fast (minimize the duration of each interaction).

Dan S.

From the Jesuits:

A New Serenity Prayer
by Jim Manney

The basis of all true religion is believing that “There is a God and I’m not him.” That’s the spirit of this updating of the Serenity Prayer by Jim Martin, SJ.

God, grant me the serenity
to accept the people I cannot change,
which is pretty much everyone,
since I’m clearly not you, God.
At least not the last time I checked.

And while you’re at it, God,
please give me the courage
to change what I need to change about myself,
which is frankly a lot, since, once again,
I’m not you, which means I’m not perfect.
It’s better for me to focus on changing myself
than to worry about changing other people,
who, as you’ll no doubt remember me saying,
I can’t change anyway.

Finally, give me the wisdom to just shut up
whenever I think that I’m clearly smarter
than everyone else in the room,
that no one knows what they’re talking about except me,
or that I alone have all the answers.

Basically, God,
grant me the wisdom
to remember that I’m
not you.



Larry Davis

I quit. That may be extreme, but it's what I did. Twice now because of such a coworker. And it's maybe not the best course of action for everybody (or anybody). But life is too short to remain in a situation that is stressful and frustrating.

The truth is, if the person is a brown-noser and good with the powers that be, you will never change that. Staying in the situation will make you bitter and reflect poorly on you while the aggravating employee continues along unscathed. You will be seen as toxic and the situation will become that much worse.

So quit. Go to another company or even just another department/division if possible. I've seen entire groups quit in a short period of time in whole or in part from an annoying coworker. And guess what? That annoying coworker kept his/her job and usually even got promoted. Companies don't get it. Don't pretend they will.


The fifth basic law of human stupidity: Stupid people are worse than bandits and must be avoided at all costs.

Iljitsch van Beijnum

Try to not let it get to you?

But one thing you certainly shouldn't do: complain endlessly to your friends and family—you might meet the business end of that frying pan yourself that way.


On the subject of spite, I had a college roommate who was motivated solely out of spite. On the first day of class, he made pancakes. One of the roommates commented that he wouldn't have time later in the semester to make pancakes. He continued to make pancakes every single morning just out of spite to prove to the roommate that he could. All we had to do was say he couldn't do something, and out of spite he would.

On the subject of people you can't stand, I offer no help.


You could use 'ignorance is bliss' as your motto but we all know that once people get on our nerves, even a sigh outta them will bug you. So I'd say, use the agitation to motivate you and work at being better than them as you already know you make more sense than they do. And at meetings, you could use this "energy" to contradict their every move. This can get quite entertaining. Then again, it shouldn't go over the top and turn into a cold war.


Be a grownup and don't get emotionally involved with every meatsack you deal with.


I'd be interested in seeing how these feelings break down by gender. In my experience, women are more likely to have someone at work they "can't stand" than men.


If you don't like them. They will be able to tell through your body language and tone. They will then respond to you accordingly. Being mean to them will only accelerate their bad behavior toward you.

There are a few tricks to help with this:
1. You can make up a back story in which you start to have some sort of empathy for them. You can make up something like, they must not have had good role models to teach them work ethics like you were taught. When you deal with them later you might not be as harsh.

2. You can ask them for advice on something not work related, or maybe borrow a book. It will confuse their bad behavior toward you. How can he/she not like you if he/she is doing something nice for you. They call this the Benjamin Franklin effect. Quoted: "He that has once done you a Kindness will be more ready to do you another, than he whom you yourself have obliged."

There are of course more tricks, but these were the first that came to mind.



I can tolerate the brown-nosing, not very good at their jobs types. The ones who drive me to the point of forgetting the subject under discussion 'cause I'm thinking about how good it would feel to give their necks a 180-degree twist are the ones who simply will not let anyone else get a word in edgeways. You have something to say, get out the first word or two, and they go ahead and talk right over you.

(This doesn't seem to have any relation to their competence. I've known some ignorant know-it-alls like this, but also a couple who were exceptionally good at their work.)

So far my only solution - not a very good one - has been to avoid in-person dealings whenever possible, and when meetings are unavoidable, to just not speak at all.