Here’s the really funny part about this question – I am probably the absolute worst person to ask this question because I have never cared about office politics. But let’s try to look at it objectively in this article. First, what do I mean when I refer to ‘office politics?’ To me, that’s the employees who are trying constantly to get ahead at someone else’s expense or trying to form a relationship with senior management staff mainly for personal gains. That’s what it means to me. If you think of it differently or would like to suggest another meaning, please feel free to comment.
The uniqueness of the project management position and whom they serve actually makes this a worthwhile question. Because most positions within a company require that the employee perform certain tasks and the notion that performing them well will serve both to benefit their career and benefit the company. The uniqueness of the project management position is that the PM is serving the company and at the same time serving the customer. They are also serving their team, but that’s not completely unique as department managers are hopefully keeping that in mind as well.
I will tell you right now that my take on this is a big ‘NO.’ Maybe that’s why I’m in this profession. I believe that the project management profession has no place for office politics, the PM has no time for office politics, and unless it in some way betters his project or removes a roadblock to getting the project goals accomplished, the PM has need to let it interfere with their project progress and what they are trying to accomplish for their customer. And when I’m pushed hard enough, I will likely state that my allegiance lies with the customer and getting the project successfully implemented for them rather than changing courses on the whim of the organization. I’ve done that before and it has never served me, my career, or my customer well. And it didn’t even benefit my organization. Usually, political strategizing by your organization that goes against the goals of the project isn’t likely a good long-term decision-making process anyway. It serves an immediate need, not a long-term one, and often leaves you, your project team, and the customer out in the cold.
As for me, it’s fairly easy to avoid the office politics and focus on my team and the customer because I am usually managing my project remotely. When I meet with the CEO, it’s because it’s important. When I am face to face with senior management, it’s necessary – there’s a purpose.