I have a colleague who is only interested in their personal agenda and it's affecting the team. How do I handle them?

By Joel Cheng
Director, ODI

It is a tricky situation to be in when you have a colleague who is pushing their own agenda. Such actions can be detrimental to both the team and the said colleague, and you should intervene and make a difference if you are able to.

First, let us look at why you should do something about the situation. It would not be wrong for you to handle such a colleague by either ignoring them or fighting fire with fire. But in both these options, the organisation almost always suffers as a result. Conversely, if you are able to intervene and influence such a colleague, there is great possibility of a positive outcome.

The key part of this process lies in the the “how.” How do we handle such a colleague? How do we go about broaching the topic without being confrontational or accusatory? Here are a few tips to help with the conversation!

1. Finding the right time

Being a potentially sensitive topic, conversations with such colleagues can be stress-inducing and potentially uncomfortable. Speaking to your colleague during lunch or after work — as opposed to bringing this up early in the morning — might be better as they are likely to be more relaxed!

2. Finding the right place

As a topic that is sensitive, the conversation should be held somewhere that is private and conducive for sharing. Speaking to your colleague in the pantry within earshot of other staff members isn’t a good idea.

3. Try to understand, rather than criticise

As much as we dislike to drag the conversation further, it is important that we ask questions to clarify. Instead of rushing to get the conversation over and done with, take time to ask questions to better understand the areas that need improvement and how you might do so.

4. Bring in context of the team and the organisation

After understanding your colleague, the next step would be to help them understand how their actions and behaviour are affecting the team and the organisation. Ideally, this should help them see the bigger picture and how they fit into it. By bringing the focus away from your colleague and onto the organisation, it helps them to reframe and contextualise the implications of their actions.

With these four steps in mind, you should be better equipped to handle challenging colleagues with personal agendas. Remember to remain calm and respectful as you navigate tricky conversations with others!


Finding it extremely difficult to work with a colleague who’s only interested in pursuing their personal agenda? Please comment or write in to me at connect@pace-od.com, I'd love to hear from you!