Don’t Fear Organizational Politics — Master Them

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Don’t Fear Organizational Politics — Master Them



Imagine you're a project manager reporting to a senior director of a subsidiary, with a dotted line to a group director in the HQ. In a meeting, you're caught in their crossfire. What would you do?

If you’re wondering whether getting involved in the politics is mandatory, the answer is yes. What if you wish to stay away? You can, but you’ll put your career at risk.

There’s no need to be afraid of organizational politics. Often the top performers are those who have mastered the art. In the organizational hierarchy, there is a level beyond which winning at politics is more important than mastering any technical skills.

What Are Organizational Politics?

Workplace politics are simply the differences between people at work—whether they’re contrasting opinions or conflicts of interest. They’re important, because you need these politics to:

  • Get your job done;
  • Get the resources you need to accomplish your goals;
  • Influence stakeholders to say yes and give you access to their resources;
  • Fetch critical information necessary for your success;
  • Get to know the facts—they are not offered on a platter;
  • Effectively deal with people around you; and
  • Read between the lines.

What Aren’t Organizational Politics?

Politics aren’t about cheating or taking advantage of other people. They are not about:

  • Defeating, abusing or dodging others for self-interest;
  • Getting too obsessed with yourself;
  • Playing mischievously;
  • Harming others for your own benefit.

It is not about me over you (win-lose), but both of us together (win-win).

Why Are Organizational Politics Inevitable?

You can’t avoid them, because the following are all sources of politics:

  • Organizational structure and culture
  • Competing objectives
  • Scarcity of resources
  • The fact that not everything can be told upfront in public
  • Everyone having an ego
  • Insecurity (fear of loss)
  • Competitive work environment (rat race)
  • Prejudice

Some of these factors are always present in an office, making politics inevitable.

How to Win in Organizational Politics

The most common reactions to politics at work are either fight or flight, which can have harmful consequences. Remember, we always have a choice to approach the situation and then hold on, understand or work out a viable solution.

Here are few steps you can take:

Know Enterprise Environmental Factors:

The first step is to understand the source. You can put together a winning solution if you understand factors influencing your project execution, such as organizational culture, organizational structure, various communication channels, organizational policies, individual behavior and risk tolerance of stakeholders.

Analyze Stakeholders:

Politics always come down to the people who are involved. Until we understand their interests, power, influence, buy-in and support, it may not be easy to prepare a strategy. There are various tools like the power/interest grid, buy-in/influence grid, stakeholder engagement matrix, etc. that help in stakeholder analysis and preparing strategies. There are tools like power/interest grid, buy-in/influence grid, stakeholder engagement matrix etc. that help in stakeholder analysis and preparing strategies. In fact, it is a good idea to always maintain a stakeholder register so you have information ready to quickly deal with a situation.

Discover Hidden Agendas:

Hidden agenda aren’t always as bad as they appear. Many times a personal objective is driving someone’s actions. Therefore, it is necessary to talk to the people and understand the driving factors behind their opinion and actions to strengthen your strategy.

Think Win-Win:

Somehow, we are encouraged to think that someone has to lose in order for us to win. We see our colleagues as rivals instead of as our team members. This may be because of the organization’s politics. We have to find a solution that not only makes you win, but others too. This may not be easy, but understanding other people’s point of view and putting your feet in their shoes will help you find a win-win solution.

Build your network:

One of the best ways to do this is through networking, which builds relationships. This will help you better understand other people’s viewpoints and get their support in facilitating a solution. Networking is also very effective in getting buy-in and reaching consensus.

By taking these steps, you can propose win-win solutions and steer your projects to success.

What ideas do you have for dealing with organizational politics? Please share your thoughts in the comments below. I look forward to reading about your experiences.

 

Posted by Vivek Prakash on: March 04, 2019 07:14 PM | Permalink

Comments (13)

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Great points Vivek, I would add Bullying under items that aren't organizational. Bullying is a very serious issue that many take it lightly.

Great Topic. Good Points covered in the article.Thanks for sharing it.
It is bitter truth that we can not avoid Organizational Politics but we can be winner in this.

Yes we can mange it by doing this :-
1- Don't always find faults in others. ...
2- Be honest. ...
3- Don't unnecessarily react to each and every thing at the workplace. ...
4- Don't rely much on verbal communication.
5-Never ever open anybody else’s confidential documents or check his e mails in his absence .

Very relevent topic of project environment. It is very well presented and explained. You have touched all the aspects very nicely.
As you righly said that organisational politics should not be avoided rather we should learn the skills to deal with. We should explore the positive side of using it and enhance our chance to succeed. Your suggestions are very useful and helpful in practicing politics.

Thank you Vivek!!

A friend of mine always says that project management is about people, politics, and processes first and foremost. Once those are understood, you can make everything else work. It is a point very well taken that politics is not negative or cheating. It is the acknowledgement that everyone has interests, and those of any stakeholders must align in some way with those of the project team to achieve success. Part of the PM's job is to find that alignment and make sure it is communicated to stakeholders.

Thank you for sharing - this is very important working in corporations today!

Networking for sure; have close relationship with your colleagues will bring more benefits. Great! Thank for sharing!

Awesome and candid.

Thanks Vivek for providing the insights on a very relevant topic.

Thanks for sharing this important topic relevant about stakeholders management.

Thanks Friends for your comments and sharing your views. I consider this a key skill for a successful project manager. Many people often say that they don't want to get into politics but do we a choice? If we are in a pool, we have to swim. Why people want to stay away because I feel they don't have good examples around them and they think they too have to play those dirty tricks. However we also have an option to positively influence the situation.

Fantastic tips, thanks for sharing!

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