Why Does It Suck To Be A Project Manager? (It Doesn’t Have To Be That Way
“Being a project manager sucks. Everyone thinks I’m a wolf in sheep’s clothing. No one really cares about what I do to protect them from the wrath of clients and office management.”
This was Tia, one of my good friends, who works as a Project Manager in a web development company.
“I cannot take this anymore. I feel like quitting.” she continued her sobbing, and continued to console her that things are going to be fine.
Being someone who has been part of the project management industry for close to a decade now, I could relate to the feelings that Tia was going through. I knew that almost every project manager goes through this phase. In fact, there was a time when I also underwent similar feelings. But the experience helped me conquer all this, and here I am — leading a team of happy employees, working for a product we all believe in.
But that’s not the reason why I am writing this post.
I am writing to share some of the common things about being a project manager, why it sucks, but at the same time — why it is all worth it. So, let us begin.
Being A Project Manager Sucks, But Why
- You Have To Manage The Team (Obviously, Who Else Would)
A day in the life of a project manager revolves around task statuses, time entries, scattered files, and never-ending chats. More often than not, they are seen standing over the shoulders of team members asking them about status updates, why time was not logged, and so on.
- You Are The Bearer Of The Bad News (You Cannot Escape It)
“The client has canceled the project.” “The client has given poor feedback for our work.” “The management is not happy with the team’s performance.”
The project manager is always the bearer of bad news like these. They have to be at the receiving end of that dreaded look during emergency team meetings.
- You Have To Confront The Client (This Is The Worst Part)
Whenever something goes wrong in the project, a project manager has to be the person confronting the client. Whenever the client finds something wrong, be it a lagging task, a couple of hours of extra time logged, and so on, the project manager is the first point of contact, and has to take all the resentment.
Eventually, You End Up Being The Most Hated Person In The Room
When all this is happening around you, it is quite obvious to feel that you are the most hated person in the room. Whether you are dealing with clients in a meeting or interacting with your team, those piercing looks from all of them can give chills to your spine.
But, Wait — Does It Have To Be This Way?
“Certainly not. No matter how much you dread it, the Project Manager is the most important position in an organization. Yes, you have to face tough situations most of the time, but remember — the rewards are worth it.”
“Simplify the way your team members manage their tasks and communications by bringing it all under one roof with ProofHub. Try it today!”
I consoled Tia, after listening to her side of the story. Now it was my turn to speak. I continued to explain to her, why it was worth it to be a Project Manager. “Your role does not have to be like this. Yes, you will continue to perform the tasks and duties you are meant to, but that’s just one side of the coin. There’s another side of the coin as well.”
Just like a captain in a battlefield, a project manager is a decision-maker at every step. During certain scenarios, your team might hate what you say, but when they know the impact of your decisions and talks, they will eventually understand why you always have to behave and make decisions the way you do.
Now, it is up to you to build a rapport with your team so that they understand you better. In order to do that there are certain simple things that you need to keep in mind:
More Than What You Say, How You Say It Matters
For instance, let’s take this common scenario that happens in every office -
“Why did you not log the last two hours of extra work that you did on the software yesterday? The management is going to kill me. And, because of you, I will have to give so many explanations to the client.” yelled the manager at the software developer in the team.
Can you relate to this scenario? Did you find something wrong in the way the manager reacted?
Here’s how the manager could have handled the situation better — “Adam, what’s the matter? Is everything alright? You never forget to log in your time, how come you missed it yesterday? We have to be extra careful with time logging; otherwise, we will have a lot of explanation to do.”
Show Them That You Are On Their Side
Leadership is an achievement of trust. — Peter R. Drucker
Miscommunication is the biggest reason that leads to conflicts in the team. A team that understands its manager and knows what a project manager has to go through every day for the team will never question or doubt decisions taken by him or her. However, to reach that stage, you need to connect with your team on a more informal level. You need to have an understanding beyond office communication so that the team always knows that you are on their side.
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After all, Someone Has To Be The Shield For The Team
At the end of the day, being a project manager is a highly responsible job. You cannot be one unless you are willing to take the responsibility on your shoulders. You need to make sure that everyone in your team knows that your role is to serve as a shield so that they can work without facing any distractions.
As a project manager, your duties include:
Develop a clear understanding of the project
Create a clear project scope document that will ultimately be required by the team to have a clear understanding of what they are supposed to achieve. Without you, there cannot be a clear path that the team needs to tread to reach the successful completion of the project. Forget about completion, without a project manager; everyone is going to be utterly confused about what to do when to do and how to execute the project plan.
Put forward client expectations
You might know the technical side, but understand how the client wants to use that technical aspect in their product is what leads to a successful project. A project manager knows how to communicate client expectations to the entire team so that everyone in the team knows the direction in which they are supposed to move to achieve successful project completion. After all, creating something that’s not up to the client’s expectations is simply a waste of your time and money. And the client is not going to pay you for that.
Designate roles and responsibilities
Being the Captain of the ship, it is your, the Project Manager’s, responsibility to assign roles to your team members. You can easily do that using project management software like ProofHub to assign specific roles and tasks to your team members to ensure that everyone knows what they are supposed to do. If there is no project manager, no one would be there to assign tasks, and it could lead to utter confusion and miscommunication, ultimately leading to project failure.
Create workflows (steer the ship in the right direction)
Once everyone has been assigned a job to do in the project, it is imperative to bring harmony in the way they will accomplish their tasks. This is where developing a framework for following the plan that was created based on client expectations comes into the picture. A project manager is responsible for creating the workflows that divide the bigger project into smaller stages, with tasks for each stage, and defines how different tasks are going to be carried out one after the other in an orderly manner. Without a workflow, you can expect teams to be working haphazardly over different tasks, which could be utterly chaotic and sheer wastage of your resources.
Manage client communications
It is a project manager’s duty to share regular updates on the project with the client so that he is always in the loop and knows about the project’s progress. Client communication is of utmost importance since it is also a way to always stay on top of the ever-changing client expectations and project scope (based on client expectations). By clearly maintaining smooth communication, the project manager ensures that the client is always satisfied with the work being carried out.
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Adapt and iterate
As already mentioned, client expectations can change from time to time. When such a situation occurs, it is the project manager who shoulders the responsibility to manage those changing expectations and iterate the project plan, scope, and workflow accordingly. Without a project manager, managing the changing client expectations at every stage of the workflow can become a tedious and time-consuming task.
Tell your side of the story to the management
The decision-makers always worry about the end results and the feedback that the client has shared. There can be times where you have to deal with difficult clients. There will be projects that will bear negative consequences even after the entire team puts their best efforts. And there could be a number of reasons behind this, but there has to be a person to communicate it to the management. This is also where a responsible project manager serves as the shield for the entire team.
And, this is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s a lot more a project manager does for a team than just the things mentioned here (and, I’m sure you do too), but seldom does the team realize that all these things are happening. That’s because a sincere project manager, who values the effort that a team is putting in the project, will never let these distractions bother the team and hamper their productivity.
However, sometimes you, as a project, must bring this into their notice. This will make the team understand how significant it is to have a project manager. Without one, they will have to not only focus on getting their tasks completed and delivered, but also work around the management of the project, creating project plans, dealing with client communication, and so on.
Value Them, So That They Value You!
From Tia’s experience, it was evident that there was a lag in communication and connection between her and her team. Perhaps they did not really know the duties and responsibilities that Tia was performing to ensure that her team members don’t have to worry about anything but their work (something they are the masters at). Or, perhaps the team has had a bad experience in the past.
In both the cases, Tia’s responsibility is to win the trust of her team by clearly letting her team know that she is not here to shout on them during team meetings or interrupt their coffee machine conversations. She is here to make sure that team members don’t have to worry about anything beyond their work roles.
The best way to achieve this is to communicate, create a bond with them, and let them know that you are on their side. Appreciating them for the job they are doing and letting them know that you are also doing the same is going to bring value to your title as the Project Manager.
And, that’s going to be the time you will realize that it does not suck to be a project manager. It’s actually worth it!
All the best.
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