The impact of internal politics on projects

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The author spent the first part of her career working in IT and IT Project Management in the oil industry and investment banking on complex global projects involving the management of outsourced project teams. She now runs a digital marketing company with particular expertise in technical SEO and Content Marketing.

In the workplace, no matter how hard you try, internal politics will always be an unfortunate reality. Luckily, there are some steps that you can take in order to reduce the impact that this might have on your projects.

Political games in the workplace can range from one single individual to several areas within the company and can be devastating to the morale of everyone. They can take many forms, being obvious and blatant or more passive; some even go completely undetected but serve to completely undermine everything. In order to mitigate the risks, you first need to be able to identify the type of political behaviours and assess the level that they have reached.

Blaming others

Pointing the finger and continually blaming someone else for mistakes that occur can lead to huge levels of mistrust and is one of the most damaging elements of internal politics in the workplace. Whilst accountability is important this is not the way to make improvements and can lead to cover-ups in the future.

Only developing relationships that can further a career

Every employee matters, from the new project manager who has only just achieved their project management qualifications to the old hand with years of knowledge and experience and their contributions can be very valid. It is important for those at the top to show how much they value everyone’s contributions in order to foster the right attitude within a company.

Trying to create barriers between management and other employees

If you want to encourage success in all areas of a project then it is important to encourage ideas from every member of the team, from the most inexperienced who are just developing skills for project management to those with considerable expertise. It doesn’t matter who has a great idea it can be the thing that really turns a project around regardless of its origin.

Creating conflict and not being part of a solution

Expectations should be communicated at every point of the project and any problems should be advised with possible solutions following. This will give you a team who think critically and are always considering the next move with the project, rather than creating conflict due to perceived failures.

Taking credit

Unfortunately, when you work in a team, especially one where people are working in small groups on the same thing it can be very easy to take the credit for someone else’s work. Whether this is because you want to appear as though you are the problem solver or because the credit has been incorrectly attributed to you, this is a sure-fire way to promote significant hostility within the team.

Spreading gossip and lies

Chatting is human nature and so is gossip, and whilst a little friendly banter is not a bad thing in the office there is a point at which it can be deemed to have crossed the line. It is important for the project manager to lead by example and this means conveying the message that they expect mutual support and respect to be the overwhelming feeling within the team this means getting the message across that lies and gossip will not be tolerated. Both of these things can not only lead to low morale but also can have an effect on productivity.

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Project management has developed into a fully-fledged chartered profession since the granting of the Royal Charter in the UK to The Association for Project Management (APM) in 2017. Training courses for project managers were already available and highly popular to help people gain professional project management accreditation, but with this wider recognition of the profession it is now seen as a desirable career path for many. Whilst the APM has the coveted Royal Charter and continues to develop its APM PMQ (formerly the APMP) programmes, there are also other internationally recognised qualifications that continue to be highly regarded such as PMP and PRINCE2.

Organisations have become increasingly project-focused in this era of rapidly emerging new technologies and they value the expertise that comes with experienced and fully qualified project teams and managers. By investing in their project management capability businesses can be confident of delivering their new projects in time and on budget more often and more successfully. Many major corporation are now training their people to have the right project management qualifications as well as relevant experience, through internal Learning & Development (L&D) programmes; or by using external project management training providers.

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