Dealing with Problem People (Part 3)
Anyone who has undergone PMP® training will recall that 75% to 90% of a project manager’s time is spent communicating. That means dealing with stakeholders and the project team. As we have seen in Part 1 and Part 2, problem behaviours come in many forms.
“Eccentrics” are essentially harmless and often add colour to a team. However, it is a good idea to keep them away from customers and they might cause offense to certain stakeholders. It can be useful to explain to the eccentric why they are being kept out of the public eye. This may trigger a realization that a mannerism of theirs is actually a problem. “Flippancy” is a related issue. Humour helps no end during a project and can do wonders for team identity and team morale (all part of the Develop Project Team process that PMPs® will remember). Unfortunately, the flippant person can be a loose cannon and can meet the same fate as the eccentric – being confined to barracks. Flippancy often has its origins in boredom, so getting the person more actively involved in the project can help.
Rumours are amazing. They can circulate companies faster than broadcast messages. Unfortunately, “Gossips” tend to exaggerate stories and, by the time they get back to the originator, they are distorted beyond all reason. Like “Flippancy”, gossip has its origins in boredom. While informal chat amongst the team is good for morale, malicious gossip can be extremely destructive. Good communication with the team can help diffuse gossip by making sure they are well informed about their project and about company matters concerning them.
Having discussed “Flippancy”, it is appropriate to consider the opposite issue – the “Humourless” person. Humour is considered a right-brained activity and is associated with creativity. Straight-laced team members are likely to prefer order (they could be “Bureaucrats”) and may suit regulated roles. They can dampen team spirit and be ridiculed for having a “holier than thou” attitude.
Probably the diametric opposite of the “Bureaucrat” is the “Impulsive” person. Just like the “Dogmatic” character, the “Impulsive” will jump to conclusions and make what are known as “solo runs”. Impulsiveness should not be discouraged, but it is important that the project manager contains it. Impulsive people are great at coming up with ideas. However, in bureaucratic environments, they are too impatient to wait for their proposal to get due consideration and will implement these ideas without approval. Make sure they get feedback in good time.
Although not covered in PMP® courses, project managers need to learn to manage their managers. Having a “Meddler” or a “Micro-Manager” can be a nightmare. If you are not careful, you will find yourself spending all day, every day getting answers to the boss’s questions. You need to push back and insist on having a regular reporting framework in place. Many meddlesome managers are not sure what to do with a project manager and want to manage the project themselves. They are the polar opposite to the “Abdicator” we met in Part 1. Once they are comfortable with the amount of status updates they receive, they should back off.
If you have ever had a “Nagging” boss yourself, make sure that you do not become one! Nagging is the practice of asking for something to be done repeatedly. Instead of doing this, use the work breakdown structure technique and divide the work into activities that can each be done in under a day. You might consider using agile techniques to get more regular feedback. A good PMP® should have confidence in the team and not look over their shoulders all the time.
Plagiarism is when you steal from one source; research is when you steal from two. Someone who steals ideas can be a danger in a corporation because of the danger of patent or copyright infringement. But a “Plagiarist” can do incredible damage to team morale by claiming other people’s ideas. Minuting meetings can help – when ideas are raised, record who originated them – but leading by example is probably better. Give team members credit for their ideas - matter of fact, public recognition provides genuine motivation.
Finally, there are “Two Faced” people out there. They tell different people different stories and cannot be trusted. Making a show of writing down what they are saying (and confirming this by reading it back) can give them pause. Now that there is a written record, there is not much value in dreaming up an alternative reality for someone else. Indeed, if you are getting the alternate reality, the story might change during the telling, as soon as you start taking notes.
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