How to Handle Difficult People as an IT Project Manager
There is no simple solution for handling difficult people in your job as an IT Project Manager. Just like there is no simple solution for it in general. However, with each person who may be challenging there are soft skills you can call upon to keep the project and team on track.
Each person is hard to handle for a different reason. It could be because of their work style, personality, or even their work ethic. So, the best way to tackle this topic is by looking at each type of person you may come across.
Here are the five most common challenging team member types with some tips for how to handle each:
Almost everyone procrastinates from time to time, but The Procrastinator in the office is the habitual one. This is the person whose tasks on your project seem to take a backseat to everything else. They assure you that they will be finished tomorrow, but when tomorrow comes they provide excuses instead of deliverables. The Procrastinator can delay others when there are dependencies and ultimately sink projects that have a solid deadline.
Here is where you must call upon your patience skills. Talk to the procrastinator and explain that other people’s tasks and the project are dependent on their items. For future tasks, try to provide The Procrastinator an early deadline for your own planning. If the task is needed by the 12th, tell The Procrastinator you need it done by the 9th. This will help keep your project on schedule.
It is difficult to knock a hard worker, but The Overachiever can actually cause more harm than good on a project. This is the person who is either overzealous in finishing tasks before they should be done or takes on other people’s tasks. Sometimes they will even take on yours. The Overachiever usually means well, but can cause confusion when taking on other people’s items or cause project mistakes by performing a task before supporting tasks are completed.
Here is where you must call upon your diplomacy skills. Tactfully talk to The Overachiever about staying on point with their own items. Explain that each project team member has assignments that they must complete themselves. Also describe adverse effects of performing tasks that must wait for a specific reason.
We all know The Complainer very well. This is the person who whines about their tasks, complains about other collaborating team members , criticizes deadlines, or just questions the project in general. This can only cause frustration for you as well as the other project team members. This can easily lower moral, deter others from attending meetings, and possibly cause the team to question project decisions.
Here is where you must call upon your leadership skills. Without being combative, counter The Complainer’s grumbles with facts and clarifications where needed. Light humor can even help in some situations to respond to their moaning and groaning, but be sure to use it without being condescending. Over time it is likely that others will simply ignore The Complainer’s grievances and move on.
Vivek Prakash, Founder and Chief Consultant for pmwares – Project Management Consultancy & Training provided this advice in an article on the Voices On Project Management Blog via Projectmanagement.com:
“To improve someone’s performance, I suggest changing your role from that of a boss to mentor. Why? Because a boss gives further challenges, while a mentor provides support. A boss applies pressure while a mentor tries to find a solution.”
The Bad Idea Bringer
Thinking outside of the box is necessary for innovative and inventive ideas . However, off-the-wall ideas all have their place and in a solid project they can be distractive. The Bad Idea Bringer is the person who expresses a thought with introductions like “you know what we should do,” “what I think would work here is,” or “wouldn’t it be awesome to.” Each of these intros is usually followed by a crazy thought raising the eyebrows of everyone in the room. This can take the project off track, especially when in a team meeting.
Here is where you must call upon your skills of self-control. Do not become frustrated with the distractions. Instead, try to reasonably compliment The Bad Idea Bringer for their creative thinking . Suggest using the idea on a future project or even using it on the current project in a different way, if possible.
This is a tricky character because he or she can disguise themselves as one of the other culprits above. But, if they are solely a Late-Comer this means they are never on time for a project meeting or conference call and/or tend to join the conversation after the topic has passed. This is another distraction to the project as they try to join in too late. They may have missed an important date, announcement, or change in the project. This can obviously be detrimental to the project as everyone on board needs to be in the know.
Here is where you must call upon your skills of patience, self-control, and leadership all at once. As a leader you must put your foot down by asking this person to be on time in the future. This is very important to the overall teamwork on the project as well as that person being informed. Your self-control and patience will assist you in remaining calm and professional. But beware, because The Late-Comer is normally a habitual offender.
Lynda Bourne, Director of Training with Mosaic Project Services wrote this in a Project Accelerator News article on the topic of working with difficult people:
“Positive and supportive relationships can propel you to success; whereas unmanaged dysfunctional relationships can destroy you. If you mismanage a dysfunctional relationship with a difficult person, the fall-out will affect your productivity and quite possibly the success of your project.”
Are you an IT Project Manager?
The world is made up of very unique individuals. You as an IT Project Manager will need to corral different people into a successful project team. Knowing how to handle those who are challenging and not letting their shenanigans adversely affect your project is easier than you think. Always remain professional in your actions and words. Then just call upon the interpersonal skills that put you in your position in the first place and you are destined to succeed.
Which type of difficult person do you run into the most? Is there another common type you would add to this list? If so, let us know what type it is, what they can do to your project, and how you handle them in the comments below.
Image Credit: This is all wrong! Via Shutterstock, Top view of working business group sitting at table during corporate meeting; Overachiever word on a business cards with description ; No Whiners words construction sign barricade ; Businessman cartoon having a bad idea; Businessman in rush looking at his watch; He will get on the report (Shutterstock);