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6 Qualities of Bad IT Project Managers


The following article is based upon true stories. The names have been changed to protect the (not so) innocent. The point of the story is that there are a lot of good IT Project Managers out there, but there are also some not so good…no, there are some really bad IT Project Managers. These project managers have, by hook or by crook, somehow ended up in a position of authority and reigned down their terror on those unfortunate enough to work under them.

I’ve worked ‘for and with’ a number of people in the technology space throughout my career. Most have been great. These IT Project Managers have been open-minded, reasonable, flexible, good at using tools to manage the project team and focused on the greater good. On the other hand, I’ve worked with some that have been profoundly and deeply dysfunctional.

Two that come to mind are Jim and Suzanne (not their real names). The following 6 qualities of IT Project Managers that suck are based upon these two characters.

1. They’re Hot Heads

They’re on the extreme opposite side of calm, cool, and collected. They’re a powder keg that can go off at any time and for any reason. You never know what it is that will set them off. However, you know that you need to carefully measure each word you utter in their presence. One day, things may be perfectly fine with what you stated. The next day, you may say the exact same thing and KA-BAM! Off they go!

Suzanne worked in a development environment where there was an office whose walls were made of glass. It was called the glass cage. The problem was that this glass cage was not soundproof. About once a week, Suzanne would ‘explode’ (metaphorically speaking) in this glass cage. Everyone around the office could hear the screaming and yelling that ensued and just put their headphones on a little tighter.

2. They’re Wafflers

Terrible IT Project Managers are unable to take a position and stick with it. They’ll look you right in the eye, tell you one thing…and then a day or two later, take a position or make a statement that’s 180 degrees from what they just told you. This creates an environment of distrust and audit trails. Oh, and it’s a phenomenal morale breaker, too!

Jim was the last person that needed to sign off on the form before the software could be deployed. He sat in all the meetings, knew the process, knew the project status and knew his role.

There were only a couple of items that remained in order for the project to be considered complete. As soon as these were done, Jim said he would sign off on the form that would allow the project to move forward. The customer was given the delivery date and those couple of items were complete. The team went back to Jim for his signature. He promptly stated “I don’t remember saying anything like that and I’m not going to sign it. You’ll have to let the customer know the date will be missed”.

3.  They’re Arrogant

Nobody, I mean, NOBODY knows as much as these enlightened IT Project Managers know. They have extraordinary IQs (in their own mind), can handle any situation single-handedly, and think that everyone around them is there to serve them (along with their sub-par mental capacity). They listen to no-one, never act on anyone else’s suggestions and believe the world revolves around them.

Suzanne wrote a book, sort of. She contributed one chapter to a compilation of work by about twenty authors. It was all about how to program in a particular language. You’d think she wrote the Bible! That book went with her everywhere. It was on her desk. It went to every meeting with her. If someone was taking an opposite position to her, she would merely glance at this book for the purpose of shutting the other person up.

4. They “Motivate” with Fear and Guilt

IT Project Managers that aren’t good at their jobs have two tools they use to manage people – fear and guilt. They have never heard of teamwork, self-empowerment, accomplishment and all those other crazy motivators that normal people use to get things done. They keep people in their place by threatening them with the consequences of what will happen if things don’t go their way. Or, they try and put a “woe is me” guilt trip on people by telling them that they’ll have to stay behind to get all the work done, themselves. What they fail to mention is that this was due to poor IT project management on their part.

Jim was a Bully and Tattle-Tale. He acted like he never made it out of elementary school. His “team” would sit in his office and tell him what was going on. If he didn’t like what he heard, he would immediately run up to the executive suite and start throwing his OWN team under the bus. Pathetic.

5. They Work Stupid Hours

When I say stupid hours, I don’t mean stupid hours like 60, 70, or 80 hours a week. I mean stupid hours like Overnight, 3 days straight, sleep on the couch at the office stupid hours…and then blame everyone else for why they had to do this.

It’s a lack of discipline more than anything that puts poor performers into this bind. They focus on the wrong things all day long – when the team is right there – and waste everyone’s time. Then, everyone leaves and they’re left alone, holding the proverbial bag that they need to finish, themselves.

Suzanne had a TV in her office. OK.  It was on all day long. Not OK. She was easily distracted and would watch the News, non-stop. She said she needed it to help her get her work done because it helped her “focus”.  In reality, it helped her do nothing but waste time. And it goes without saying that she never got anything done. The team would come in the next morning and she would still be sitting there…pathetic, forlorn, and hungry. Why? Because she’d pulled an all-nighter to (allegedly) catch up on her work. Just plain stupid.

6. They’re Inconsistent

You never know where you stand with these people. One day they’re your best friend and talking about how well things are going, how things have really changed, and that they appreciate what you’re doing. The next day, they’re running up to the executive suite to throw you under the bus! I mean… GO FIGURE!

Jim was wonderful at trade shows. He loved talking to the customers and was upbeat and positive. He was everyone’s best friend in the company and was floating on Cloud Nine. Unfortunately, his mouth wrote some checks that he just couldn’t cash when he got back to the office. He plummeted to the depths of despair and took it out on everyone that was within earshot.

A couple of questions come to mind when you think about these people:

Firstly… how on earth did they even get this position, let alone stay in it? I really don’t know. From what I’ve seen it has been more a function of WHO they know (they may be related to someone higher up) than WHAT they know.

Next… what can you do if you’re unfortunate enough to work with someone like this? If you don’t see an end in sight, I would recommend finding another position, either within the existing company or elsewhere. There’s no reason to be subjected to this type of ineptness on a daily basis. If you do see an end in sight, you can grin and bear it knowing that it’s just a matter of time before things get better.

The reality is that at some point, with enough missed deadlines and complaints, somebody will say “enough!” and get rid of this person. In the meantime, just make sure you don’t have any of the qualities above and keep doing your job the best you can!

If you are unfortunate enough to work for someone like Suzanne or Jim, take heart. You can use ProjectManager.com FREE for 30 days to get things ready for their replacement. Who knows, it might even be you! See how easy it is to create your next IT project plan, track time, monitor expenses, collaborate and do all the other things that a really good project manager does!

 

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