I Don’t Have to Like You, I Just Have to Be Nice

Several years ago my brother-in-law made an interesting comment about a potential new in-law. His comment rang very true in the context of the family setting we were in, but I believe it makes as much sense and is as applicable to a work environment as well.

He said, “Just because my sister marries somebody doesn’t mean I have to like that person. I do however have to be nice and find a way to get along.” He continued by saying, “If we become friends and like each other and choose to socialize together then that’s just an added bonus.”

As I said, he was referring to a family scenario, but I believe the same concept can be applied to a work relationship. We may not always have a choice or a say in who we work with, but we do need to find a way to get along.

I’m a huge sports fan and have always loved basketball, especially the NBA. One of my all-time favorite players is Larry Bird. I loved the way he played and how hard he worked to make the most of his abilities. During the ‘80s I always rooted for Bird’s Celtics, as they seemed to face the Los Angeles Lakers every year for the NBA Championship.

I was young at the time but felt the Lakers always had the better talent but that Bird and his Celtics played better as a team, which enabled them to win three championships in the ‘80s. Little did I know that Bird and Kevin McHale didn’t care much for either. Bird was driven, highly competitive and practiced his craft relentlessly. McHale was laid back, working hard during the season but rarely touching a basketball during the offseason.

The differences in personalities caused some friction and tension in the locker room, but in Peter May’s Book entitled The Big Three, the author quotes McHale after one of many disagreements with Bird as saying, “I’ve only developed a few tight, long-lasting relationships in basketball with people I’ve played with, and I don’t know why that is. Danny (Ainge), Jerry (Sichting), Bill (Walton). And there were guys I loved playing with. You work in the office with people, but does that mean you have to invite them over every weekend? But one of the things I can say about Larry and Robert is that we never had an argument that lasted. And if we ever yelled at one another, it was all over the next day. Nothing ever lasted.”

This quote reminds me of my brother-in-laws quote I referenced earlier.

The third member of Boston’s Big Three was Center Robert Parrish. Parrish managed to stay fairly neutral in the Bird-McHale rift. His only concern was winning. Indeed all three were focused on winning despite their personal feelings for each other.

Individually they all enjoyed success. Bird was the biggest star of the three, averaging 24.3 points and 10 rebounds a game over his career. He was a Rookie of the Year, three-time NBA MVP, scored more than 21,000 points, was a 10-time NBA All-Star, a member of the first Olympic Dream team and gold medal winner, and a 1998 Hall-of-Fame inductee.

Kevin McHale averaged more than 17 points and 7 rebounds a game over 12 NBA seasons. He was a seven-time NBA All-Star and a 1999 Hall-of-Fame inductee.

Robert Parrish played 20 NBA seasons averaging more than 14 points and 9 rebounds a game. He was a nine-time NBA All-Star and a 2003 Hall-of-Fame inductee.

All very impressive, however, despite not getting along personally, the three were able to put their differences aside while on the court and together won three NBA Championships, made 42 playoff appearances and scored more than 62,000 points collectively.

Think what your teams could accomplish if they could follow this example and put differences aside. Too often people focus on personal problems and allow those issues to cloud judgment and get in the way of achieving ultimate success. If you take the approach that just because you work together doesn’t mean you have to like each other and focus on taking care of business you’ll find that you can achieve great things regardless of personal feelings for one another.