Reasons Why Your Project Team Hates You

Ok, I’ll admit, HATE is a strong word. Extreme dislike (which is basically the definition of hate) sounds a little better.

The first project manager I ever worked with I couldn’t stand and extremely disliked. He showed up once a week, told us we weren’t doing our jobs and should be fired, and left (see Project Manager Pop-up). He also threatened to go directly to the VP if we didn’t complete our work on time. Yeah, we hated him. After a few months of this, I suggested an approach to make things go faster. He turned red, through the project plan at me and said “If you can do better slick, go for it!” That was my first project 20+ years ago. Even though I really didn’t like that guy, I guess I should thank him for taking my career in a different direction.

Every project manager has their own unique personality and style. These personalities and styles may rub some team members and stakeholders the wrong way. Can’t make everyone happy. But, there are some things project managers do that will make their teams hate them! Here are the top reasons I’ve seen and experienced.

Quick to Take Credit, Quicker to Direct Blame. This is one of the quickest ways for your team to hate you. I worked with a program manager who, in front of the executive committee, told everyone that HIS efforts got the program done. He also blamed individuals when things went wrong. If you’re the type of project manager who takes all the credit and quickly assigns blame, your team will hate you! A lot. Instead, be quick to praise the team and just as quick to accept blame. Sometimes you have to fall on your sword for the greater good!

Yell First, Talk Later. Because projects are complex, constrained, and unique, mistake-free projects are the exception, not the norm. Shit’s gonna happen! When they do, if you allow for an emotional response and start yelling and/or blaming, your team will hate you. They’ll also refrain from bringing problems to you in the future. Instead, check your emotions and THANK team members when they bring issues to the forefront. Don’t be the person who yells when any little thing pops up.

PTO Does Not Equal “Pretend Time Off.” Everyone needs to take time off to rest and recoup. When you kick off a project, I recommend having a PTO calendar. When someone does take time off, you can be proactive and ensure their tasks are covered. That way, your team member can take some relaxing time away without anyone needing to call them. Don’t be the project manager who calls someone to ask for information while they’re at the beach! Plan ahead.

Micromanage Every Task. Projects are broken into tasks. Those tasks are completed by team members. These team members are really good at what they do. So if they’re good at it, why are you constantly looking over their shoulder to see if work is getting done? Micromanaging is just going to piss them off! Look at it from a Trust and Verify; trust the work is getting done and also verify it is.

Lean on a Small Group of Team Members (or just one). “Ah shit, the (project manager’s name) is calling me again!!” On our projects, we have those team members or team member who we rely on. They’re smart and dependable. Because they are, we go to them with questions and ask for information. And we go to them. And we go to them. And we go to them again until they’re tired of hearing your voice. Eventually, they’re not going to want to talk to you! If you have questions, try to ask them all at once versus calling the person 10 times a day. They’ll appreciate it.

Give Up Gossiping! Every company, department and team has gossipers. Think about the last time gossip you heard that was even true. Because project managers talk to so many people, they have the opportunity to spread lots of gossip. Let me tell you; don’t do it! If the gossip is untrue, you’ll be equivalent of a manure spreader, and your team will hate you for it. When you hear gossip, keep it to yourself. Better yet, ask questions and try to stop it!

Project Manager Pop-up. Ever play “Whack-a-Mole” where this little fury creature pops up and you hit its head to make it go back down? This is similar. The project manager pops their head up, tells the team what to do, gets upset with them for whatever reason, doesn’t take the lead to help resolve issues, and then disappears. They’re not leading. Instead, they’re just popping up and popping back down just as fast. Your team won’t like you if this is how you operate! Don’t be a mole; Lead!

Again, Hate is a strong word. But at the same time, we’ve probably seen actions project managers take that cause a team to really not like them. This is my list. I’m sure you have other things that rub you wrong also. What would you add? But ultimately, don’t be a project manager your team hates.

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