“How do you manage an employee who doesn’t like you?” That’s the great question I received recently from ChangeYourTeam member Julie. I’ll share my answer in the form of some dos and don’ts, but I’d love for you to pitch in with your two cents in the comments.


  • 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.

Further Reading

Help! I Don’t Like my Teammate

Don’t Overpower your Team

Dealing with Trust Issues on your Team

2 Responses to Dos and Don’ts When an Employee Doesn’t Like You

  1. Karen

    I have been newly hired as a Supervisor of Operations. I am learning all aspects of this company from the ground up starting with customer services being trained by one of my subordinates who is the Customer Service Lead. This 28-30 year old is exceptional in her job function, assertive, confident; no problems with her performance. However, when I first started I spent my first week with her training and observed her curtness to other CSRs when they would ask for direction. Beginning of following week while I was in a brief meeting with our mutual manager, my manager asked me if I noticed anything about this Lead CSR’s behavior towards another CSR,(apparently a complaint was made). I expressed that I had witnessed the brief demeaning reply by the Lead CSR to the CSR. The Manager asked me to explain what I witnessed. My manager then stated that the Lead CAR is very immature and she needs to find a way to curb the Lead CSRS curtess as she is a valued employee.

    Above stated, this Lead CSR has demonstrated blatant disrespect for me several times over my brief 3 weeks of employment. Ignoring me is the most prominent. I clearly understand that I am hired as a salaried employee with a higher income then the Lead CSR, and this could be her issue since she maintains more knowledge than me about the company overall.

    My dilemma is whether or not to mention this to my Manager and or Human Resources. I have not said a word of this to anyone. However, I cannot have this continue as it will negatively affect how I am perceived by the remaining 16 CSRs.

    Truly would appreciate feedback.

    • 3coze

      Hi K, thanks for the question. Unless there is harassment or other illegal or unethical behavior going on, I urge you not to go to HR or to a manager without talking to the person first. The minute you go around her to someone with more power, you destroy your relationship for good. If you do decide to go someone, go asking for coaching, not to report bad behavior. Try something like “I’m struggling with the Lead CSR. One example was …” “How would you recommend that I talk to her about this?”
      Usually, rudeness like you describe is a symptom of someone’s own insecurity. I always start with the assumption that condescending behavior is a sign of weakness, rather than of strength. You already mentioned that the person has far more experience than you, so tap into that experience. Try to build a relationship with the person. Earn the right to give her some feedback about how her interactions with the CSRs are hurting her brand. Help her see the opportunity to be the go-to person on the team.

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