How to Deal with Politics in Project Management

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Whenever there are people working together, frictions are bound to occur. These frictions can cause different types of working relationships to evolve among team members. Sometimes these working relationships give rise to a wonderful work culture, but most of the times, it breeds politics.

A big part of the frictions arising among team members can be attributed to the external factors such as overall organizational strategy (which depends largely on market conditions) and organization policies.

On the other hand, while personal dynamics are responsible to a great extent to form a working culture in a team, there are internal factors also, such as team diversity and its structure, that mould a team’s working culture.

The overall politics in a team is therefore, a function of – organizational strategy, organizational policies, team diversity, team structure, and personal dynamics. The organizational and team politics usually stay on for years and is difficult to do away with, unless the top leadership changes it radically.

A project manager too will have to deal with politics apart from other factors and ensure that he can still deliver projects successfully. So, how do you deal with politics?

Acknowledge and accept organizational politics:

If politics is inevitable, then wouldn’t it be rather that you acknowledge its existence and accept it? I’d say, you should even be appreciative of certain politics, as politics does not necessarily manifest itself with a negative connotation. If you acknowledge politics, then probably it will be easier for you to deal with it and chalk out steps that are required to ensure successful project delivery.

Develop a political sensibility:

If you have recognized and appreciated politics in your team, then you will easily develop a political sensibility. A political sensibility means using diplomacies that can utilize the powers to the advantage of your project. It could either mean building rapport with the stakeholders who may be fearing the uncertain outcomes post project implementation. For example, it may be disturbing for some procurement managers, who think that after the implementation of ERP application, their jobs may be at stake; or that their positions may become dispensable; or that it may disturb the balance of power.

But they may be wrong altogether. It’s just that they are going through the “what’s in it for me” syndrome, and that’s very natural. So, as an essence of your political sensibility, unless you address this syndrome, it’s quite unlikely that you will get the required support.

Another essence of your political sensibility is to develop good business rapport with those people who will directly help in achieving your project goals. You should avoid building rapport based on the personality type that you would gel with. This is fine when you are selecting friends in your social world, but not appropriate for your work.

Develop a flair for conflict management:

Finally, develop a talent for addressing conflicts. It is very dangerous to ignore conflicts or try to suppress them. It may annoy your team members and allow the differences to aggravate. It may blow up someday and this could be far more damaging for the project.

But, you will know what works and what does not, only through experience; or by conscious effort of cultivating a knack for it – either by reading or by taking advice from your peers.

Thank you for reading this article. If you’ve come this far, then you must have found this piece worth something. Do share it within your circle if you found it helpful!


(Disclaimer: The image is only for the purpose of illustration. It is not meant for damaging reputation of any group whatsoever).

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About Anand Agarwal:
Co-Founder at EZMove

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