How Hidden Agendas Impact Organizational Success

“In reality, there are very few villains who view themselves as villains. They just have a certain agenda at a certain time.” —Michael Jai White

Hidden agendas make it impossible to unite your team and achieve shared success. They destroy trust and eliminate any hope for transparency. When hidden agendas are in play in your organization, your team is divided and it is every man for himself. When leaders and employees have their own agenda, they are looking out for their own best interest and not the interest of the whole. Here’s how.

Hidden agendas reveal motives

When you, as a leader, have a hidden agenda employees will begin to perceive you as devious. They will start to question your motives, words, and actions. Soon you lose their trust. Without trust, you lose your ability to influence others.

Hidden agendas are self-serving

When employees operate based on hidden agendas, they are working toward their own goals and what will benefit them the most. In order for an organization to be successful, every participant must be working toward the same goal.

Hidden agendas jeopardize morale

Hidden agendas are perhaps the single greatest morale buster within your organization. They conceal true motives and are in many ways deceiving. Once exposed it can leave your team feeling demoralized and betrayed. When morale has been compromised your effectiveness will suffer.

Hidden agendas endanger your company’s future

We can’t state it emphatically enough – hidden agendas on many fronts are a threat that reaches beyond the scope of your internal structure. Unfortunately, identifying hidden agendas can be difficult. Addressing them in time can be a real challenge for you as a leader. Here are a few questions that can help shed some light on hidden agendas and help you as a leader before it is too late.

Are we driven by our values or by our profits?

When you and your people are driven by values rather than by profits then hidden agendas become less important. When the driving force behind your organization is to put people over profits, honesty above cutting corners, and integrity over deception then the profits will follow.

Does our communication foster accountability and growth?

Open communication is the life-blood of a sound organizational structure. But it must go beyond that by holding people accountable for what they say and do. When the lines of communication are flowing and everyone’s voice is being heard then hidden agendas are more readily identified and confronted.

Are we building strong relationships within our teams?

We accomplish nothing alone. We need the collaboration and participation of every member of the team. In order to be successful, we must build strong relationships within our teams. And, relationships are based on trust; there can be no trust when hidden agendas are in play.

Are we working toward shared goals?

If we are not working together toward shared goals, each member of your team will be working toward their own goals. This is where hidden agendas take form. Each team member focuses their energies on doing and getting whatever they need to be successful regardless of how it will affect the success of the team as a whole.

None of us set out to intentionally undermine the success of our organization but this is exactly what happens when hidden agendas are at work. Our motives become questionable. Our actions become self-serving. We jeopardize morale. And, we end up endangering the future of our company.

Our objective here is to not only raise awareness to the pitfalls of hidden agendas but to show a better way. The strength of your organization is found in its people working together toward shared goals and values. When hidden agendas are put to rest then the team can move forward together.

© 2016 Doug Dickerson and Elizabeth Stincelli

Doug Dickerson is an internationally recognized leadership speaker, columnist, and author. A Lowcountry resident, Doug is available to speak for your civic or business group. To learn more visit

Elizabeth Stincelli is passionate about recognizing and inspiring the leader in each of us. She is the CEO of Stincelli Advisors where she focuses on helping organizations engage employees and improve organizational culture. Elizabeth holds a Doctor of Management degree with an emphasis on organizational leadership. Learn more about Elizabeth by visiting her website,

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