Resistance to change can take on a variety of flavor but perhaps there is no greater a devastating effect on the project than that of character assassination.

In my own career I’ve found myself a few times on the receiving end of such attacks which I discovered resulted in a diversion of focus from the project and it’s objectives to petty arguments and a waste of energy.

These attacks can materialize either based on partial truth or on totally made up facts. They can include the following accusations:

– the project manager is incompetent.
– the project manager is inexperienced or lacks basic knowledge to lead the team.
– the project team is not meeting objectives because of poor management.
– the project manager is dishonest or not providing the right information.
– the vendor selection process is unfair because the project manager is making biased decisions.

These types of statements lead to severe challenges not the least of which is questioning project plans, progress reports, and the very integrity of the PM framework.

They may also be associated with other underlying problems in the organization that include corporate politics, lack of cohesion, or even flawed corporate strategy.

It is indeed very difficult to fend off these issues because one tendency could be to fight against accusations with accusations of our own. This lead to adding fuel to the fire.

What I have found is the more one is able to keep a level headed response that isolates emotions the easier it becomes to deal with them. There is also an important role for the sponsor and organizational executives to play in supporting the PM and the team.

Project managers who excel in communications and documentation along with other leadership skills are well positioned to maintain a focus on the facts rather than personalities.

If the team is one that provides for a united front to support one another and to demonstrate visible trust, this produces a significant defense in this area as well.

I’d like to invite readers who may have good strategies in dealing with this issue to comment on this and perhaps share some real life examples (without specific details) on how they’ve handled character assassinations in the past.

However as a disclaimer I will acknowledge that not every attack on the project is unwarranted. This is where the role of organizational executives come in to help decipher the various types of feedback on the project.