Project managers, I don’t have to tell you that you’re important. According to a study conducted by Oracle, “An impressive 90% of respondents say project management is either critical (47%) or somewhat important (43%) to their ability to deliver successful projects and remain competitive.” But another survey found that 57% of projects fail due to breakdown in communications.
If over half of your projects are failing, you might want to ask yourself: Is your office haunted by poor project management? Is it a communication issue, or a personnel issue?
When project managers do their jobs well, the entire office benefits. But when they don’t, the repercussions may pull down the business for years.
First, let’s identify the qualities of a horrific project manager.
Bad project managers suffer from four core qualities:
1. They lack communication skills
If your office is haunted by bad project management, your PM is not a people-person. They don’t take the time to develop solid communication plans. They haven’t invested in project management software to foster communication and cohesion in the office. The Project Management Institute estimates that poor communication leads to project failure 33% of the time, and leads to budgeting issues half the time.
2. They struggle with time management
You know the type: they claim that they’re busy all the time and yet their work is frequently late or unpolished. They’re overconfident with what they—and their team—can get done in a set amount of time. The consequence? They lead the team to under-deliver, go over budget, and/or miss deadlines with every project.
3. They can’t delegate
This type of project manager can struggle with either over-delegating or under-delegating. If they have the former problem, the project manager micromanages to a point that the office can barely inch forward on a project without letting the project manager know. The over-delegator creates a “wait to be told” office culture, one filled with distrust and crushing cynicism.
On the other hand, people who struggle with under-delegation are not likely to make good project managers either. They struggle with being authority figures and often give the right tasks to the wrong people.
4. They’re difficult to get along with
While they might be great at their jobs, some project managers are a pain in the behind to deal with. They scoff at servant leadership, and they’re often pessimistic—about themselves, their team members, and the direction of the company. A PM with a bad attitude can affect your whole office.
They can spiral into a negativity cycle: first with negative thoughts and feelings, and progressing to poor behavior and lower productivity. And when the negativity cycle affects project managers, the bad attitude can seep into the entire office.
But what can you do about these poor project managers? Before you’re spooked into firing them immediately, try these approaches first.
Dealing with a disgruntled project manager is like dealing with a difficult team member. First, speak with them one-on-one. They might be going through a personal problem. Or, they could just be completely unaware that their attitude is negatively affecting the office. If you’re uncomfortable doing it alone, recruit other team members to also speak with the project manager.
Talking with your project manager one-on-one doesn’t have to be a confrontation. Start the conversation off by emphasizing that you want to help. For example, you could say, “Hey Todd. I’ve noticed that you have increased checklist items. Is there a reason for the change? Is there a way we could automate some of these tasks?” An inquisitive approach is far better than, “Hey Todd, you’re micromanaging. Stop it!” The difference between these two tactics is that the former focuses on the project, and the latter comes off as an attack.
Be prepared to give detailed examples of the negative behavior. Any decent project manager needs to have quality feedback, and a one-on-one meeting is no exception. If they’re worth their salt, they will appreciate it.
If this meeting doesn’t work—or worse, makes the situation more unbearable—consider reaching out to upper management. It can be as simple as copying them on a questionable email. Remember, you’re not playing the “blame game,” you’re looking out for your project.
Finally, if the problem isn’t fixed, seek out your human resources representative. They may be able to provide you with advice… or reconsider the bad project manager’s position in the company.
An office haunting caused by bad project management is a nightmarish experience. How have you dealt with troubling project managers? How do you make sure that you don’t become one? Leave your answers in the comments below!
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