The Project Manager is directly responsible for the outcome of tasks; making it a very high-pressure and often stressful role. This pressure is exacerbated when PM’s fail to acknowledge that they’re under stress, and therefore they don’t deal with it properly.
We thought it might be handy to compile a list of the top 4 causes of stress to PM’s so that you can look out for the warning signs:
1. Unachievable timelines
Cause you to panic; immediately clouding your vision, reducing your brainpower and potentially resulting in poor-quality rush jobs.
What you can do about them: Whenever an unrealistic timeline is proposed, DON’T just try ‘get on with it’. The client will appreciate your honesty, especially if this means avoiding producing lower-quality work. If you keep your jobs organised in an easy-to-view spreadsheet with the estimated time you’ll need to spend on it, you can show this to your client to give them a clear understanding of your time allowance.
2. Working with different departments in which you don’t have full control
When you’re working alongside a myriad of people in different departments with opposing mind-sets, this can be difficult to orchestrate.
What you can do about it: Listen to everyone’s concerns; investigate and acknowledge both sides of the issue. Remember that the most important thing for everyone involved is to do the best possible job for the client in the time available, so remind each department that they share this common goal and collectively come up with a plan to make this happen.
3. Lack of inter-group cooperation
This could be a result of attitude problems or lack of trust.
What you can do about it: Pay attention to the behaviour of those who seem to ‘rub others up the wrong way’ because sadly this is rarely without good reason. Sometimes these people are actually unaware of the effect they are having on others and could benefit from some Emotional Intelligence training. As for lack of trust, taking some time out to really get a feel for people’s strengths and weaknesses and assigning them tasks accordingly will save you time and worry in the long-run.
4. Unrealistic client demands
A job which may seem simple and quick to the client actually involves lots of coordination and work from you and your team.
What you can do about it: As stated for point no. 1, letting your client know the situation as clearly as possible will help you out. In addition to this, make sure that communication between departments is as open as possible. Consider regular ‘Production Meetings’ (even just 10 minutes!) in which everyone working on the project comes together to prioritise, give an update on where they are in the process and to work out what needs to happen next.
We asked Robert Kelly (author at Kelly's Contemplation) his thoughts on how Project Managers can best alleviate stress:
"I know meetings get a bad rap, but they are one of the most powerful tools a project manager can leverage. With all the moving pieces, competing interests of the various departments and shifting expectations, you need a way to keep it all together. When executed properly, meetings can improve collaboration, minimize confusion and assumptions, and ensure everyone is aware of next steps. Believe it or not, team members (especially those on the periphery...executives) are not reading the status reports and meeting minutes. I know; shocker! Your kick-off meeting allows you to cast the vision, answer questions, and get everyone on the same page. This is when you can also set the tone of the project, explain the methodology/process you will leverage, and set expectations of the team members. Often, everyone will join this meeting and it is a great time to get the executive backing/voice into the project. As the project continues, your weekly meetings must be used correctly. Send your agenda and other documents, that require review/input more than 24hrs ahead of time. This will allow people time to review and to come prepared with questions or recommendations. This is also the time to make decisions, assign action items, and verify the plan is still on course.
The meeting is a powerful tool and like any trade, if you use your tools wrong, they will break. Plan, prepare, and have purpose."
Luckily, employers can educate their project managers on how to manage their teams, workloads and stress levels with our PRINCE2 (or Projects IN a Controlled Environment) course. PRINCE2 is a structured project management method which was created through the experience of working on thousands of projects. It uses the knowledge of respected individuals, teams, academics and trainers to teach PM’s the importance of good management, helping them to become less stressed and more in control.
PRINCE2 frees up employees to work in a more streamlined way, meaning more projects can be completed on time and on budget. This has obvious monetary advantages for businesses, but more importantly it helps boost morale and reduce stress levels within the organisation.
For more information on PRINCE2 courses, visit our course guide.