Can you handle an employee power struggle?

Thursday, March 27th, 2014 By Jack Nevison

At times, leading a large project team can feel like navigating the treacherous machinations of a television show like Game of Thrones. Your most trusted team members and top performers will begin to fight each other for more control of the project. Sometimes, outright backstabbing will ensue.

This is an unfortunate situation, but not always a surprising one. As a recent article on points out, power changes people as they rise to the top of an organization.

"People who rise to the tops of companies and other organizations tend to prioritize their own goals and desires above those of others, fail to take other people's perspectives into account, tend to disregard other people's feelings and are, well, less polite," the article reads. "They act to preserver power, sometimes aggressively, when they feel that it is threatened."

This can be extremely damaging to an organization's cohesion. Project managers cannot afford to ignore the problem. That's why, as the article points out, managers need to step in early and establish a clear hierarchy. They need to define each team member's role while offering them a path to contribute and, eventually, to advance. They also need to spend some time working on conflict-management training to improve the overall work culture.

As Napoleon said, "Power is my mistress. I have worked too hard at her conquest to allow anyone to take her away from me." But as the article points out, "Napoleon unchecked ravaged Europe." Managers should beware of the effects "Napoleons" can have on their companies.

At New Leaf Project Management, we offer programs to help manage any Napoleons in your organization with our 2-day program, "Leading the Project Team." We also offer white papers and QPM, our online game series, that let you learn while you earn affordable PDU credits for PMP certification.

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