As part of an ongoing blog series on Positive Office Politics (follow #OPQ on Twitter), Susan Mazza asks “What’s Your Agenda?” In this blog post, she explores personal motivations and how they show up in the workplace. She says:
We ALL have agendas. You could say our ambitions, no matter how altruistic or noble they may be, are an agenda. We also have many underlying personal viewpoints and biases. Some we are aware of and some we are not. And they inform everything we think, say and do.
As I read this post, I found myself wondering to what degree the label “hidden agenda” or “playing politics” is driven by the trust level between the players involved. For example, let’s say that Pete has a poor track record with Bob when it comes to being forthright. Therefore Bob doesn’t trust Pete to “tell it like it is” and is leery when Bob describes something in vague terms. Does it then follow that Pete attributes a “hidden agenda” to Bob? Pete may think to himself, “Why doesn’t Bob just come out and say what he has in mind for this project? What’s all the cloak-and-dagger stuff about anyway?”
But has Pete considered Bob’s viewpoint? Does Bob have a legitimate reason for not being forthcoming? Maybe Bob has a “hidden” agenda, maybe not. One thing’s for sure—Pete can’t crawl inside Bob’s head and see his motivation. So, maybe a better optionfor Pete is to pay attention to his own motivations and worry less about Bob’s intentions. Better yet, Pete could put it on the table and talk about it. “Bob, I’m not sure I’m clear about what you’re plan is. Would you be willing to give me more detail?”
To Susan’s point, human beings can’t avoid having motivations and ambitions. We can, however be willing to examine our own motivations and ensure that they are focused on a mutually beneficial outcome. When we make sure our own intentions and motivations are well-placed, we know we can trust our agenda.