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Posted: July 30, 2013

How to work with anyone

But why would you want to?

Todd Ordal

How to Work with Anyone: That was the title of a blog post I saw recently. I didn’t read it. What a dumb objective! Why would you want to work with “anyone” when you have choices? This isn’t North Korea!

Let’s get a few exceptions out of the way. If you’re in the military, you have fewer choices about colleagues. If you’re on a desert island stranded with another person, some compromise and team building might be in order. There are a few more, but they don’t apply to many of us.

Having a goal of being able to work with anyone means you’re like tofu — only as good or bad as those you’re thrown into the pot with. Here are some things to keep in mind if you don’t want to work with just “anyone”:

  • Have a point of view and share it, and listen to others’ point of view.
  • If you work with jerks, shake them up or leave!
  • Remember that your self-esteem is more important than sucking up to bullies.
  • Always think of yourself as self-employed. Are you adding value and getting value?
  • Consider that you can replace money, but your time is gone forever[1]. How will you measure wealth? Perhaps discretionary time or good memories are more important than a bigger house.
  • Never believe you don’t have options regarding tough working situations.
  • Don’t be the guy or gal whom the headline is about (for example, How to Work With Jerks).
  • Keep in mind that, for the most part, you don’t choose your family. But even then, you have choices as to how or whether to interact. In some measure, you can decide whom you work with. Make yourself attractive to others so you’ll have a choice.
  • As you climb the ladder, assuming you want to, hire for competency, but don’t forget that emotional intelligence is a form of competency. Don’t work for jerks, but don’t hire them either.
  • Don’t generalize from a specific. One bad person or interaction at work doesn’t mean the total experience sucks!

Do you want to be a sizzling steak or a piece of tofu?[2]


[1] I once heard a film critic complaining about a bad movie. He said, “I don’t want my $10 back; I want the two hours of my life back!”

[2] Please don’t write or call about tofu. I eat it on occasion, but only with other great complementary ingredients.

Todd Ordal is President of Applied Strategy LLC. Todd helps CEOs achieve better financial results, become more effective leaders and sleep easier at night. He speaks, writes, consults and advises on issues of strategy and leadership. Todd is a former CEO and has led teams as large as 7,000. Follow Todd on Twitter here. You can also find Todd at,  303-527-0417 or

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Readers Respond

Sorry Elizabeth, but there are a few on your list that many of us wouldn’t work with and have yet been successful. Tolerance is a beautiful thing—in most situations. A well-educated and well-balanced friend recently left an abusive boss (short sited, uninformed, aggressive, stressed out, temperamental, and anxious from your list) that she was tolerant of for several years. She is now very happy and better compensated and on a better career track. The previous business is struggling. By Todd Ordal on 2013 07 30
There are lots of different types of people in the world other than your simplification of someone being a jerk or not. It's important to know how to deal with different types of people. The challenge is to be able to work with introverts, extroverts, short sited, uneducated, uninformed, meek, aggressive, stressed out, temperamental, anxious clients, co-workers, bosses and customers and coming out on top with lots of business (money) for yourself or your company. The gift of being able to assess and deal with all these types of people is what good business is all about. If you have the attitude that you won't (or refuse) to work with these types of people, will limit your career opportunities as well as business success. Yes we do have a choice of whom we work with and for. Having little tolerance for different people, attitudes and dispositions will get your nowhere. By Elizabeth on 2013 07 30
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