Ulterior motives, anyone?

Here's how to uncover these teamwork-sappers

There’s at least one in every bunch, that person who never agrees with anything anyone says in meetings or other staff sessions. Don’t you hate it when he or she cuts you off midsentence with remarks such as “What is the point of these meetings? Nothing good ever comes out of them anyway” and “That idea will never work”? It’s nothing personal. These individuals will often stunt the growth of the team in order to protect their own interests.

“A number of people go into complex organizational issues without taking the time to think about whether one or more of the participants has an agenda-until it’s too late,” say Michael and Deborah Singer Dobson, co-authors of Managing Up: 59 Ways to Build a Career-Advancing Relationship With Your Boss (AMACOM, $16.95). To prevent the goals of the team or organization being stopped before they have a chance to get started, the Dobsons advise assuming that “there are hidden agendas until you have determined otherwise.”

Uncovering hidden agendas doesn’t have to be painful for anyone involved. Consider these tips:

  • Be direct. A simple way to get “hidden” information may be to just ask the person directly. Try saying, “I’ve been asked to look into this matter, and I wanted to ask you if you had any issues, concerns or other plans before I actually go ahead and do anything.”
  • Be indirect. If asking the offender directly doesn’t work or seems politically unwise, find another person who might know. Consider inquiring, “Is there anything I should know about the interests and goals of the players in this situation?”
  • Learn. If you encounter a hidden-agenda-ladened situation, use it as a learning experience and strive not to let it happen again. Otherwise, you’ll be known as someone who doesn’t learn very well, a career blemish you can’t afford to have.
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