As you know in any situation, the relationship between everyone involved in something can affect the outcome. This also goes for project management. In short, the relationship between everyone who’s involved in the project from the stakeholders to the senior execs often determines how the project will pan out, and also how successful it will be.

Office Politics Can Make for an Unpleasant Working Environment, Even If You Aren’t Personally Involved in It

In a group scenario, it’s essential to ensure that there are strong working relationships between everyone. This way any conflict or problem that might arise can be dealt with effectively and maturely without allowing the project to go to pot.

Unfortunately, this is not always the case. There’s often tension with the group. Sometimes an individual might have his or her own agenda. There might be a power struggle. There might be disagreement as to how to carry out a task. All of these things can derail a project.

There’s no denying that politics in the office exists. It’s part and parcel when it comes to the business world. It is particularly difficult for a project manager to deal with. Usually, a group doesn’t work on a variety of projects together. More often than not the group has temporarily been put together for a short duration to get the project done. People are chosen for their skills, expertise and knowledge, and group dynamics and harmony rarely comes into play.

Defining office politics isn’t always an easy thing. But in most cases everyone can recognise some of the symptoms. This almost always includes a struggle for power. Sometimes it’s related to a person trying to simply hold down their job, but in other cases they might be in search of a promotion. Office politics can make for an unpleasant working environment, even if you aren’t personally involved in it.

In some cases the politics aren’t even internal problems. Instead it might involve your client. It could be that he or she is trying to wield more power. They might want to squeeze everything they can out of you, and get more out of the project than you were initially contracted to do. They might be trying to get the most for their money – in other words more functionality for exactly the same costs. Such problems with a client can cause all sorts of problems for the company. In some cases it might even damage the reputation of the company. A major client can do a lot of damage with just a few words. All it takes is for he or she to start publically criticising the project and the business for the word to spread.

It really doesn’t matter who’s involved in the office problems. It doesn’t matter if it’s an internal problem or an external one. Such problems can’t be swept under the mat and ignored.

It’s easier said than done. In such a situation, how can a project manager deal with office politics and still keep everything on track?

It’s usually impossible to keep everyone in the game happy. There’s always going to be one or two people who aren’t completely satisfied with what’s going on. Typically, this lands on the shoulders of the project manager.

The term office politics is no accident. If you want to learn more about this branch of politics and how to resolve conflict, take a look at real-life politicians and see how they deal with the situation.

A project manager must be able to take on and deal with a number of responsibilities to ensure a successful project outcome, which of course means maintaining harmony and circumventing conflict if possible.

Take a Look at Both Sides

They say there are always two sides to every story, and the same goes for conflict, so it’s important to try and understand all the different perspectives. This needs to be done without losing sight of the final goal.

It’s your job to be an arbiter. You’ll need to try and understand the underlying reasons for this particular conflict. Once you’ve understood it, you’re one step closer to finding a solution. When there’s a power struggle, it’s often a sign of insecurity, and this is something you can often help improve or at least make a compromise on.

Avoid Complicating Things

It’s easy to get entangled in a mess. Remember your position. Don’t waste time and energy listening to long-winded explanations about somebody’s behaviour or task incompletion excuses. Cut to the chase, get around the political baggage, and try to simplify the problem. If you deem it necessary, set a few new ground rules that everyone must follow, and if worse comes to worse, temporarily halt the project until the matters have been resolved.

Remind Individuals of their Personal Benefits

When conflicts and problems begin to arise, people often lose sight of all the personal benefits. It’s important to remind people of the reason behind the project and what they will personally get out of it whether it be experience, a raise, a new position, a bonus, maintaining a good company reputation, or something else.

Job satisfaction is important. But everyone needs to remember that the reputation of the company could be at stake if things don’t go the way they should. It’s in everyone’s best interest to make the project a success, because this way they’ll be able to maintain their reputation, and ensure their jobs are secure. People often forget this, so it’s your job, as the project manager, to give them a gentle reminder.

Projects aren’t easy, and office politics can make things worse, so it’s important that such problems need to be dealt with immediately when they arise. There’s more to project management than just scheduling and delegating tasks. There’s more to it than carrying out risk assessments. And there’s more to it than having to tackle change. A project manager must be able to take on and deal with a number of responsibilities to ensure a successful project outcome, which of course means maintaining harmony and circumventing conflict if possible.

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