Project Management

How to Dig Yourself Deeper into a Political Hole

From the An Influential Project Manager Blog
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When it comes to workplace politics, I notice that many people get ensnared by paranoia, fantasy, doom and gloom.

Not surprising given the often mysterious nature of the political world of work. And of course, the experience of falling prey to those who play the politics at the cost of integrity and to the detriment of the organisation.

Which is perhaps why people, when they face a political challenge, actually end up digging themselves deeper into the mire without realising it. 

For instance:

  • Automatically thinking that the perpetrators are “out to get them” and taking it personally.
  • Attempting to fight back with political moves of their own.
  • Spending an inordinate amount of time fretting about the situation.
  • Bemoaning the sorry state of affairs to anyone who will listen.
  • Assuming that there is nothing they can do.

The problem here, is that they are quite naturally biased towards a negative viewpoint. And by engaging in the actions above, they are actually making things worse rather than better. 

Instead, I like to advocate that when facing a political problem, people need to:

  1. Calmly accept that this is the way the world works, and is part of life’s rich tapestry.
  2. Recognise that what appears to be political manoeuvring is simply someone disagreeing with the proposed course of action (for whatever reason).
  3. Adopting a constructive attitude, engage with people around the problem and seek out the facts - with an open mind.
  4. Recognise that less than perfect relationships may make some of the “facts” inaccurate, and come up with a “best guess” after consulting with a wide group of trusted allies.
  5. Engage the parties in an open dialogue to solve the problem because created for the project or organisation, in an adjective manner as possible.
  6. Smile, and keep remembering that it isn’t likely to be personal, just someone else trying to get their way, for whatever reason.

Now, I do accept this may be a tall order for some, but given the skills of facilitation you have learned as a project manager, applying them to a political situation is doable - once you learn to put aside your emotional reactions.

More on this Topic

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Posted on: August 09, 2019 05:59 AM | Permalink

Comments (7)

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Thank you for sharing. At the end, is a matter of stakeholder management. Just trying to add something people could take a look to SPIN Selling or Solution Selling selling method. No matter if they are not sales woman/men (I am not) is something that could help.

Very interesting, thanks for sharing

Good advice – Accept and Navigate.

Some office politics is meant to get you. I once had a subordinate telling me to my face he wants my job. With the support of my Boss they both plotted to have me kicked out. I played them in their own coin, the politics was mess and thw company suffered. I dont like office politics in whatever form.

Very good, the is the emotional part when people take it personally. A good set of approach for a solution.

Spot on @Sergio, though I would argue that we are all selling in one way or another. As a PM you don't necessarily sell products, but you are selling services, ideas, solutions, workarounds - because others need to buy in. Heartily agree with you about studying SPIN (and other sales process).
And now I think about it, some of the highest performing sales people I have met over the years are not gregarious, loud or in your face, they are meticulous process people, quite often engineers. So a good PM will likely be able to implement a sales process as part of their toolkit!
Happy selling!

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