The Business Coach with Laura Murphy: “I can’t stand my colleague”

Question: “Our company has strict non-discrimination rules and that fits with my values. But there’s one person that I truly can’t stand. How do I get over it?” Mannie

Answer: “I’m glad you’re taking non-discrimination to heart by recognising there’s a problem. There’s no getting away from the fact however, that we are hard-wired to discriminate as that’s essential for survival. After all if you couldn’t discriminate between someone who intends inflicting physical harm and one who didn’t you’d soon be in a hospital bed. In this case your reaction is likely to be part of a primitive response.

So what harm is likely to be caused? Is it a threat to your position, to your self-esteem, to your comfortable way of doing things, your authority, the potential for advancement? It will be an unconscious reaction so re-visit those occasions where your negative feelings have arisen and be honest about what it is that has generated them.

Write down your answers (it’s amazing how committing something to paper brings reality to a situation). Identify the common themes and you’ll probably find that it boils down to one prime cause for your reaction. You’ll also discover that it’s an unsubstantiated threat of harm and thus your reaction is unmerited.

Now put things into practice. Rehearse what will happen the next time you are placed in a situation where, if things hadn’t changed, you would have responded negatively. Note that there’s no threat so you can respond appropriately. Your colleague may be surprised at the change and find it difficult to respond in kind. Persevere though and you’ll bring them around.”


Laura Murphy is the founder of mtc2 ltd, a management consultancy, training and coaching company. Laura is an organisation development specialist and business coach. If you have a problem then contact her at

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Names and details have been changed to protect confidentiality.