Good Advice for Keeping Project Management Peace

Looking to keep the peace as a project manager? There are certain constituencies you need to work with to achieve that goal: your client, your staff, and, most importantly, yourself.

Margaret Meloni is a job coach and UCLA instructor with the goal of creating a group of successful individuals who bring humanity to the office and thrive because of it. To support her mission, she publishes a blog called, “Keeping the Peace.” As her website explains, “The common thread across her client base is the desire to experience peace at work and the recognition that peace is not absence of conflict, peace is the ability to cope with conflict.”

Well, she recently had three blog posts that are worth sharing because they focus on: an open letter to project management team members; an open letter to project managers; and, don’t forget to say thank you. Read to the bottom for a bonus post I couldn’t resist sharing.

Meloni raises good points in her letter to a project manager. Sometimes staff can’t work on your project because more important stakeholders demand their time. Those status reports you need? So do others. Why can’t you all come up with a similar template? (That last one’s probably not realistic because it would be like asking for one PM software platform. Ain’t gonna happen.)

The letter also has this excellent point. Employees don’t tell you their problems to be heard. They want you to solve them. Sure, it’s important to be a good listener, but there better be some action taken when they are done talking.

OK, so it’s only fair to provide the perspective of the project manager. His or her letter would include these points. Don’t say a project is underway if you haven’t started it. That project is 0 percent complete as Meloni points out. Be honest.

Speak up when you see problems coming up. No project manager likes to hear after the fact that you were prescient. That’s the equivalent of saying, “I told you so” when you never told us anything to begin with.

Along those same lines, going to be late with a deadline? The time to tell us isn’t the day of the deadline. Be realistic. There are only so many hours in a day to get work done effectively. You’re not going to squeeze 16 hours of work into the next nine hours. You’re just not.

Also, if our management style isn’t working for you, tell us. Just like there isn’t a one-size fits all project management software, neither is there one failsafe management style. It could be as simple as telling us you don’t like afternoon meetings. Maybe emails work better for you than texts (or vice versa).

Saying thank you also can’t be overlooked (which reminds me, I have some Christmas thank yous I need to get out). As Meloni points out, when asked their favorite incentives in a study, employees listed number one as a spoken thank you from a manager and number two as a written thank you from a manager. Public praise ranked as number four.

Then she drops this bombshell from the study. “Despite this, 58% had never received personal thanks from their managers and 76% had never received written thanks and 81% rarely (and some never) received public praise,” she says.

The post I wanted to add has the tantalizing title, “How to appreciate a jerk.” It goes against most people’s natures to be nice to jerks but we all have to swallow our pride sometimes. Meloni has some good observations about dealing with jerks. First of all, some people are jerks just because they want to be – it has nothing to do with you.

One of the best ways to deal with a jerk is to kill them with kindness, Meloni suggests. She also says you need to learn to appreciate them and, hard as it is to believe, remember that somebody out there most likely loves them. In other words, you have to see the good in people and remember that everybody has struggles we don’t know about.

What would you put into a letter to your project management staff? What would you like to say to project managers? Comment below – but just don’t be a jerk. We’ll still treat you kindly but nothing says we can’t have a low professional opinion of you.

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