How project managers can avoid the “House of Cards” trap with risk management

Happy President’s Day. There are only a few weeks before the new season of House of Cards airs. While this show is entertaining to watch, I doubt any of us would want to live it.
We all know the type. They are the team member who believes they are Frank Underwood or Petyr Babelish, but don’t execute as smoothly as these antiheroes. They are difficult to work with, narcissistic and ultimately, they grate against team cohesion.

Project managers have the unique task of managing these people and enforcing deadlines, while keeping them (and the rest) happy with their work.
What is office politics?

Office politics, according to conflict management expert Neca C. Smith, is “real OR perceived power and control to get what you want–be it tangible… or intangible…sometimes at the expense of others.” Robert Half International notes that almost 60% of workers in the United States believe that at least a small involvement in office politics is necessary to get ahead.
Underwood would be the king of office politics. He would sacrifice his coworkers to gain more influence, a corner office or, as in House of Cards: a promotion.
You can see the consequences of office politics. Working together becomes a chore when two coworkers are not in agreement. This can lead to a decrease in the team’s productivity. It is easy for coworkers to get drawn into the conflict. It is easy for team members to be taken advantage of. The workplace becomes hostile, and it can become unpleasant. One narcissistic individual causes productivity to slow down.
To minimize politics, use risk management

Project managers have a tool that can help them reign in power-hungry employees: risk control.
Risk management is the process of managing uncertainty during a project’s course. The timeline of a project, for example, is a risk because it is based on the estimated man hours needed to complete the project. Risk management allows for early detection of potential problems, contingency plans and analysis, prioritization, tracking and resolution. The formal part of the ten knowledge areas that the Project Management Institute has identified in A Guide To the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide) is risk management.
How can project managers use formal risk management strategies to deal with office politics?
Office politics should be approached as a project.

Team cohesion is the key to project success, and project managers must recognize this. Interpersonal tension, conflict, office politics, and other forms of office politics should be considered serious threats to your overall project. Project managers need to be able to identify who is best in which role and who works well together. Make conflict less likely by creating an environment that encourages cooperation.
Consider contingency plans when assigning tasks. If John and Mimi spend more time arguing than code, it might be time to give them tasks that are separate from each other.
To treat an interpersonal problem as a solvable and trackable issue, you can use project management software’s issues-management features. Project managers could use Zoho, for example, to assign severity, due dates and history to each interpersonal problem.
Make your office a place where office politics are discouraged. To communicate that your office values high performers, not high charmers, offer performance reviews and reward them with strengths-based rewards.
Do not give in to the temptations of office politics.

At the end of it all, you must not allow attention-seeking or power-seeking behavior to take over your attention. It can be difficult to balance project management and active relationships.