Leading is hard enough when we like and respect those on the team. When leaders loathe, detest, or strongly dislike a direct report, leadership can become especially tricky.
Leaders are people and they naturally avoid, ignore, or circumvent a colleague they dislike. This quickly becomes noticeable to the rest of the team, creating awkwardness and defensiveness with more than just the colleague out of favor. Team morale and effectiveness often suffer as a result.
Short of removing the distasteful colleague, leaders must devise a more effective strategy to engage a team member they dislike. Pretending their disfavor doesn’t exist is not a fruitful plan. Nor is engaging them as little as possible. Whether they mean to or not, leaders invariably leak their distaste.
They need to find a way to engage the team member without allowing their dislike to submarine a positive working relationship.
The best strategy for the leader going forward is to focus on those qualities they do like or admire about the team member. Finding those skills, values, or characteristics the leader appreciates and focusing exclusively on them works wonders for staying positive.
By engaging the attributes the leader deems positive, the team member can come to feel valued and recognized without the need to erase what is so bothersome about them in the first place.
Even team members who are enormously disliked by a leader have qualities worth emphasizing. By directing attention to that slice of the person and working from there, leaders can sidestep the urge to avoid or ignore this colleague to everyone’s discomfort.
Sometimes, holding your nose to avoid a foul odor also requires gazing away from the source of the scent. By focusing on the pleasant characteristics of a disfavored colleague, leaders can keep everyone engaged and working toward good outcomes. Highlighting what a leader does like or values about a colleague helps everyone to engage more productively.
Over time, the unpleasant odor dissipates.
I'd like to think the only reason I would really dislike a person is because of a lack of shared values. If that is the case, there is probably something I missed in the hiring stage.
If I dislike something because of a few quirks that just get on my nerves, my only real choice is to get to know them better, right? I'm not going to be effective at influencing those quirks without relationship.
This is really about team morale right?
Yes! All the more difficult when this person is exceptional at what they do.
I agree, with Steve, the core values is the true lever in determining likability. Learning more about the person and what makes them tick is valuable effort to expend.