We’ve all come across certain stories in the news that cause us to pause and wonder what in the world someone was thinking. Whether it is a story about road rage gone bad, a passenger on a plane punching someone else, or even a politician acting improperly, the main question that often comes up is “how could it have come to this?”

Clearly it is easy to be critical of bad behavior, however the challenge often times is that we are looking at a sequence of events in hind sight.  While we don’t know the specific details of a situation, it is hard to not sit in judgement of a person.  To be clear though this statement is not an attempt to justify bad behavior or seemingly ridiculous problems that could have been avoided.

The issue I think is trying to understand why these types of problems arise and to determine whether it is realistic to stop them.  If we think of a situation for instance where another person acts in a manner that causes us to be upset.  This can be a driver cutting us off or someone lighting a cigarette in an elementary school (sorry smokers for picking on you).  Does that kind of behavior justify a negative behavior on our part that results in an extreme reaction?  In the heat of the moment the answer might seem yes, but all in all, after reflection the answer is often no.

The problem is often linked to the fact that people who are desperate, or people who think they have no other option, act in very bizzarre and seemingly illogical ways.  I think it would be fair to carry this forward from personal experiences and into the workplace, even into the world of project management.  Sometimes issues related to unethical, improper, and even stupid behavior arise due to team members and workers acting out of frustration and desperation.  People’s behavior may not be because they are bad as much as it is because they see no other option.

The job of the project management professional in this process is to be the catalyst for creating opportunities so that team members don’t feel as though they have been backed into a corner.  The project manager needs to build a foundation that provides people options to resolve problems.  It all starts with understanding the issues and working with the team to help stakeholders address these issues rationally.   This is where being proactive becomes critical in the process as opposed to waiting until the situation becomes unbearable and people feel desperate.