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Project Managers Should Share Their Stress

Sharing is caring, right? What if the thing that you are sharing is project-related stress? According to an article by Joe Knight, Roger Thomas, and Brad Angus of the Harvard Business Review, there could be some benefit in project managers sharing their stress and worries with the team. Traditionally, project managers tend to keep things to themselves and avoid giving news to the team that could cause any unrest. This can be done for the sake of the project or the project team, but, as the article authors note, sometimes this is done because of a “power trip” the project manager is experiencing. Regardless of the reason, keeping all the stress on the shoulders of one person can often be detrimental to that person’s health and possibly the health of the project and team: If you’re the only one responsible for results—and the only one who’s aware that the results might not be what everyone (including the customer) is hoping for—of course you’ll be stressed. It doesn’t need to be that way. Instead, try an open-book system: Every week, put key numbers for each project on a whiteboard to discuss at a regular team meeting. The idea here is to share not only percent complete but also detailed financial information about the project, such as gross profit per hour compared to budget. This will reveal problems lurking in the shadows, like technical inefficiencies that could be easily addressed if only people actually knew they existed. The article does acknowledge that this new system, just like any new system, will certainly take some getting used to. New hires may have an especially difficult time getting used to such a system. However, with just a little extra effort and explaining, everyone will soon be on board with the new way of doing things. The more people share in the project manager’s worries, the more people will be able to catch problems such as costs not being in line with projections. Also, from a communication standpoint, less stressed individuals are often more pleasant and easy to work with. Having a leader in a management role who is more relaxed will make day to day tasks easier for everyone to complete. Furthermore, as the authors note, team members will see it as their personal responsibility to try to lessen the stress level. This could be done by spreading out the workload or coming up with new and innovative ideas. The more people you have looking at a problem, the more minds you have trying to solve it. As the article says, “many eyes on a problem, many brains applied to it.” Sure, no one likes being stressed. This is obvious. However, sharing the stress of a project manager amongst a team could mean less stress for any one individual, and this will lead to more efficient and successful projects overall. Remember, it is true that no one enjoys being stressed, but no one enjoys working for someone who is miserable because they are overstressed either.

About Anne Grybowski

Anne is a former staff writer for CAI's Accelerating IT Success, with a degree in Media Studies from Penn State University.

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