Managing a Problematic Peer Relationship

Samuel Odio

VP of Product at Samuel Odio



Over my career I've often had to work closely with peers who are not aligned on direction, combative or aggressive. I often did not understand the role I played in these relationships and let them occupy much of my mental energy. Outside of the personal toll, these relationships create uncertainty and thrash for others in the organization.

Actions taken

  • I learned to get alignment on decision-making frameworks (e.g., disagree and commit) to move forward despite disagreement.
  • I worked to understand the root assumptions and emotions that led to these disagreements.
  • I worked to discourage triangulation - seeking and communicating feedback directly using the radical candor framework.
  • I worked to solicit and receive feedback non-defensively from these problematic peers, allowing me to learn from those I disagreed with.
  • I adopted non-violent communication (NVC) as a framework to communicate feedback in a way that is more likely to be heard.

Lessons learned

  • Often disagreements between myself and a peer would represent underlying emotions and thoughts that I had little awareness of early in my career. Understanding these root causes is necessary to create lasting improvement in the relationship.
  • It's essential to understand what you need from your peer to be effective at the organization. Prioritize alignment to get those needs met.
  • A peer that won't commit after disagreement merits escalation if alignment is needed to execute effectively. The problem won't go away. "Managing up" to drive alignment and get the team executing is a vital skill to develop.
  • Your insecurity may make the combativeness or aggressiveness of a peer more painful than it needs to be. You needn't tolerate inappropriate behavior (set clear boundaries, escalate as need), but you also needn't obsess over it if your true needs are being met.

Be notified about next articles from Samuel Odio

Samuel Odio

VP of Product at Samuel Odio

Leadership DevelopmentCommunicationOrganizational StrategyDecision MakingLeadership TrainingFeedback TechniquesCareer GrowthIndividual Contributor RolesTeam & Project ManagementDiversity & Inclusion

Connect and Learn with the Best Eng Leaders

We will send you a weekly newsletter with new mentors, circles, peer groups, content, webinars,bounties and free events.


HomeCircles1-on-1 MentorshipBounties

© 2024 Plato. All rights reserved

LoginSign up