Everyone hates office politics, right? Probably most of the
readers of this column would say that they do. However, politics is all about
interacting with people and influencing them to get things done. This can be a
good thing, a bad thing, or a neutral thing, depending on the tactics people
use. It’s the behavior and motivation of people that makes office politics good
or bad. For example, finish the following statement:

You are able to move your ideas forward in the organization
and get people to act on them…

  • By
    knowing who to talk to, clearly communicating how your ideas will benefit
    them and by keeping your word to others.
  • By
    currying favor, suppressing other opposing ideas and taking credit for the
    ideas of your staff

I think we can agree that the first example would be fine,
while the second would be an example of the dirty politics that people don’t like.

It’s not uncommon for a project team to be impacted by
office politics. This can often occur when there is a difference of opinion on
the project deliverables, requirements, scope change requests, risk
perceptions, etc. Remember that politics can come in play when different people
are trying to exert their influence to get done what they want. These
disagreements may be the result of the seedier types of politics or the
disagreements may simply reflect a legitimate and valid difference of opinion
between people who think that they are all representing the best interest of
the company.

Regardless of how the disagreement started, once the
politics starts to impact the project adversely, you need to identify it as an
issue. The situation meets the definition of an issue since the problem is
impacting the progress of the project and the resolution is outside the total
control of the project team. In fact, political problems are probably issues by
definition, since they typically need to be resolved by people outside the
project team.

You can’t utilize a checklist to resolve political issues.
Political problems are people related and situational. What works for one
person in one situation may not work for another person in the same situation
because people, and their reactions, are different. However, identifying the
problem as an issue will bring visibility to the situation. Also one of the
first steps in the issues resolution process is to identify the people that
need to be involved to resolve the problem. This step is doubly important for
political problems.

Generally, project managers need to become good at
identifying and resolving political situations. This includes recognizing the
times and events where politics are most likely to be involved. This could
include decision points, competition for budget and resources, and setting
project direction and priorities.

If you are worried about politics, just follow your
processes. Your issues management process is there to help you get issues
resolved. If you have a good process, trust it and execute it. You should be
able to resolve political problems without getting in the dark side of office
politics yourself.