Rubbed the wrong way

Navigating relationships at work is challenging when people rub you the wrong way.  I’ve done my share of rubbing people the wrong way. Sometimes the irritation is my fault and other times it’s about others. A “rubbed the wrong way” moment may be a cataclysmic collision of two people who connect at just the wrong time. It may be the result of negative history or clashing personalities. Or, perhaps it’s stress, jealousy, or disapproval.

Here are some suggestions for dealing with “rubbed the wrong way,” moments.

#1. Don’t speak quickly. Reacting quickly begins an avalanche of negativity. The old adage, count to ten before you speak, slows a series of cascading interactions that may end badly.

#2. Don’t interpret the motives of others. Interpreting motives by assuming, “He did that to irritate me,” or, “she is in a bad mood,” adds fuel to interpersonal tensions.

#3. Focus on behaviors. If someone is late, don’t assume they over-slept. Limit your comments to observable behaviors. Don’t say, “I see you slept in this morning.” Say, “I notice you were late.”

#4. Keep the big picture in view. Years ago, I was told a member of the support staff was nearly impossible to work with. In reality, this person’s attention to detail perfectly suited them for their position and their responsibilities within the organization.

#5. Don’t be too much of yourself. You have negative qualities that should be tempered. Don’t excuse personal responsibility by saying, “I’ve gotta be me.”

#6. Welcome and explore instruction from others who explain that you rub others the wrong way. Ask for examples and techniques that soften your abrasiveness.

#7. Focus on work. Expend your energy achieving organizational imperatives.


How do you navigate “rubbed the wrong way” moments? How do you coach those reacting to interpersonal irritations?


Leadership Freak,

Dan Rockwell