The names have been changed to protect the (not so) innocent. You’ll see why as you start reading this article. There are a lot of great project managers in the workforce today. They are team players, focused, motivated, clear the path for their resources to get their jobs done, and deliver successful projects time and time again.
And then there’s Steve (not his real name). Steve is an example of project management gone bad! The following are some highlights (in this case, dim lights) of his not so illustrious career. Why would we showcase such a train wreck? If you see any of these traits creeping up in your project management style…take heed! Do everything you can to dispel these immediately and get yourself back on the right track!
Steve Started out as a Good Example of Project Management
Steve joined the company just like anyone else. He came with good recommendations, a positive series of interviews, and an impressive resume’. The company desperately needed a project manager to add to its ranks since it was growing so quickly. Steve fit the bill and everyone was excited to have him on the team.
Steve hit the ground running with great templates, good ideas, and some new ways of getting things done especially around dashboard reporting and collaboration, which his new team thought were great. He went to lunch with his new set of colleagues a number of times and had cordial and professional conversations with his team members. Steve started out on the right foot in setting a good example of project management.
Things Began Getting Strange
The first indication that something was a bit strange with Steve was where he decided to sit. The office was divided into two sections and had plenty of room for growth. The group of project managers that were collaboratively working together and setting a good example of project management were all on the same side of the building. Steve chose to sit as far away as possible from everyone else! He chose to sit in an office that was in the uninhabited section of the building in an office that couldn’t be any further from the rest of the team. Strange.
Then his behavior tanked as he dipped into a terrible example of project management in the workplace:
• He Could Not Deal with Interruptions – If someone from the team did need something from Steve and decided to take the quarter-mile walk to his office, then they needed to brace themselves for what happened next. A team member would pensively poke their head into his office and say “Steve, excuse me”. They would be met with a guttural sigh and dramatic swivel of his chair as he faced them and said “WHAT!” His brow was furrowed and his look was angry.
Steve could not deal with interruptions. He always felt that whatever he was working on took precedence over whatever anybody else was working on or needed. He would keep his phone on Do Not Disturb. He would keep his Instant Message client on Do Not Disturb. He exuded Do Not Disturb. A terrible example of project management.
• He Used E-Mail to Point Fingers – What was Steve working on while he was on Do Not Disturb at the far ends of the building? Writing flaming, accusatory, and incendiary E-mails to those people who crossed Steve’s path. Missed the deliverable date by a couple of hours? Get ready for an email. Inconvenienced Steve in some way? Get ready for an email. Interrupted Steve while he was on Do Not Disturb? Get ready for an email.
The emails were bad enough. To make matters worse he would include nearly 25% of the company in the cc: line including the recipient’s manager and all the way up the executive food chain. Why? It was his attempt to humiliate and embarrass the recipient of the email. This worked once or twice but ultimately back-fired on Steve as people began to figure out this juvenile tactic.
• He Was Relentless, Unforgiving, and Inflexible – Once an activity made it into one of Steve’s project plans he was hard pressed to EVER change it, regardless of the circumstances or the reasons why.
We’re not talking about making changes for the sake of making changes. What we are talking about is the flexibility that resources need during the normal ebb and flow of a project.
He worked with good resources that did good work. When they came to him with a suggestion for a change, or a request for doing something a bit different, he would immediately shut them down. “No…it’s not part of the plan”, he would say and immediately dismiss them. His unforgiving and relentless attitude would estrange his resources and prevent them from coming to him with any further suggestions.
• He Was a Clock-Watcher – Did you need something before 8:00 AM from Steve? Forget about it! Even if he was at his desk a quarter-mile away from you he wouldn’t “clock – in” until 8:00 AM. Need one final thing done by the end of the day and its 5:01 PM? Forget about it! Steve promptly “clocked-out” at 5:00 PM on the dot and called it a day. Something go wrong over the weekend? The option you had was to go to his house and let him know. All connectivity with his workplace shut-down at 5:00 PM on Friday afternoon and the next time you would hear from Steve is Monday morning at 8:00 AM. This is not the example of project management that you would want anyone to follow!
• He Lost His Temper – Do you see why we changed his name from the outset? This is not a fictitious person but rather true stories based upon a real person. But wait, there’s more! Rather than deal with setbacks and adversity like other people in the office who would get a case of the blues, shake it off, and then move on…Steve would throw things! When he couldn’t find something to throw, he would kick things like close-by chairs in his office. More subtle forms of his anger were frequently on display when he stormed out of meetings in a huff.
Steve Ended up as a Terrible Example of Project Management
Needless to say, this type of behavior didn’t last long before Steve was dismissed from the company. He blamed his poor behavior on a slew of reasons that were not his fault. Management didn’t know what they were doing, clients were disorganized, resources were not team players…etc., etc., etc. Rather than take ownership for his own behavior he chose to blame it on everyone else. Very sad.
Plus, the negative effects on his resources were incalculable. Frustration levels ran high, teamwork dissipated, and projects came to a grinding halt. People spent more time talking about Steve’s latest antics rather than spending time on project work. This was a far cry from how things started.
What’s the point of telling you about Steve and his bad example of project management? It’s rare to come across project managers like Steve. They just don’t last long. But, if you find that you are beginning to develop a Steve-like tendency or two (such as not dealing well with interruptions well) then nip it in the bud! Always do an assessment as to how you are exercising your project management influence and you’ll maintain your effectiveness as a project manager.
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