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The Art of Building Trust: Strategies for Managing a Colleague Who Doesn't Like You

As a new manager, one of the most challenging situations you may encounter is having a direct report who holds negative feelings towards you. This can be a difficult and uncomfortable experience, especially when you're trying to establish yourself as a leader and build a positive working relationship with your team. However, it's important to remember that the problem may not always be with the other person. It could be due to your management style, a bias you're unaware of, or a combination of both.

Today we will explore ways to manage this situation effectively and build a foundation of trust with your colleague.

Reflect and Check Your Biases

Before you can attempt to resolve the issue with your colleague, it's essential to take a step back and reflect on your own behavior and biases. Ask yourself some tough questions:

  • Am I unintentionally treating this colleague differently than others?

  • Have I communicated effectively with them?

  • Have I made any assumptions about them based on their background or personality?

  • Have I given them enough opportunities to share their perspective?

It's possible that you may be unaware of biases or behaviors that are contributing to the negative feelings your colleague has towards you. By acknowledging and addressing these biases, you can work towards creating a more inclusive and positive work environment.

Have an Honest and Open Conversation

Once you've reflected and checked your biases, it's time to have an honest and open conversation with your colleague. Use the GROW coaching framework to level up and openly air your challenges in working with them, and hear their side of the story. This conversation should be a safe space for both of you to share your perspectives and concerns.

Here are some tips for having an effective conversation:

  • Choose the right time and place for the conversation. Make sure you both have enough time to have a thorough discussion without interruptions.

  • Start the conversation by expressing your concerns and challenges in a non-judgmental way.

  • Listen actively and empathetically to your colleague's perspective.

  • Avoid getting defensive or dismissive. Instead, focus on understanding their point of view.

  • Work towards finding common ground and solutions that benefit both parties.

Continue Your Efforts

Having one conversation is just the beginning. Building trust and improving your working relationship with your colleague requires consistent effort and dedication. Here are some ways to continue building trust:

  • Follow up on the conversation and check in regularly to see how things are going.

  • Show appreciation and gratitude for their work and contributions to the team.

  • Involve them in decision-making processes and seek their input.

  • Offer support and guidance when needed.

  • Celebrate their successes and achievements.

Seek Feedback and Be Open to Change

It's important to remember that building trust is a two-way street. It's not enough to just make an effort to change your behavior; you must also be open to feedback and willing to adjust your approach. Ask your colleague for feedback on your management style and how you can improve your working relationship. Be open to constructive criticism and use it as an opportunity to grow and improve.


Managing a colleague who doesn't like you can be a challenging and uncomfortable experience, but it's also an opportunity for growth and improvement. By reflecting on your biases and behavior, having open and honest conversations, continuing your efforts to build trust, and seeking feedback, you can work towards creating a positive and inclusive work environment. Remember, building trust takes time and effort, but it's worth it in the long run.


Jonathan H. Westover, PhD is Chief Academic & Learning Officer (HCI Academy); Chair/Professor, Organizational Leadership (UVU); OD Consultant (Human Capital Innovations). Read Jonathan Westover's executive profile here.



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