Stress and Project Management Stress and Project Management might seem an oxymoron, but it is a fact. Project managers go under tremendous amount of stress due to conflicts and management issues. It would be better to define conflict first; “A conflict is a situation where one person’s (or team’s) ideas are opposed or negatively affected by the other. ” Project managers experience this many times during their project’s lifecycle. Project managers should be ready to experience and resolve conflicts. That is why they need to be able to distinguish conflicts and solve them according to their requirements.
Stress and conflicts can be divided in to many categories; however there are two main conflicts identified by the experts; functional conflicts and dysfunctional conflicts. Functional Conflicts: are good conflicts, in a sense that they serve the wider interests of the company/organization. Dysfunctional conflicts: are destructive as they threaten the interests of the company. The main antecedents of conflict arise out of; Incompatible personalities Value differences Job responsibilities that overlap Blurred boundaries of job responsibilities Less resources and increased competition Intercompany competition (competition within a team) Ineffective communication Tasks that require more than one person Complex organizational system/hierarchy Many of the conflicts arise out of individual personality characteristics (Robert, Wolfe, Robert & Diedrick, 1964) Means of Stress for Project manager There are many stress factors and sources for the project manager.
Primary stress factor comes from the team itself. Disagreements among team members are irritating and troublesome for the project manager. These team members were hired for their abilities to perform on the job and contribute with their skills. With conflicts occurring within the team, their skills are hampered and it affects overall performance of the project.
Other than disagreements among team members, scarce resources can also cause stress for the manager. The project managers are under tremendous pressure to perform, when they don’t have the resources to fund his project, how will they complete it satisfactorily? For example; a project manager is supposed to complete a project that involves a lot of travelling and transportation (supply chain project). Due to fluctuating prices of oil/diesel, the PM will be under severe stress. The project’s budget will be adversely affected due to increasing oil prices. Overall performance of the project will be adversely affected.
PM will need to think of other ways to cut oil and transportation costs. Most probably there will be a delay in the delivery of goods because extra funds will be needed to purchase oil. Means of Stress for Project Team The major causes of stress for the project team arise out of their inner conflicts. Usually these conflicts fall under the category of functional conflicts. For instance if someone is promoted to a task that pays more, the others will look at this transition with jealousy and contempt.
But ultimately many people want the same post and they work hard to earn it, it all goes in the favor of the company. However these grievances need to be dealt through some solid Human Resource management, otherwise these functional conflicts among team can turn in to dysfunctional conflicts. No company, no matter how resilient, can tolerate dysfunctional conflicts. Means of Stress for Employees Unclear project information and dubious task instructions can put the employees under a lot of stress.
When they have a clear cut target in front of them, they will be able to focus on that goal alone and will get less side tracked. For instance, if the project manager doesn’t convey the objective of the project efficiently enough, the employees will not able to fully grasp the concept of the outcome. They will not know for sure what the stakeholders actually want. ‘Satisfactory results’ is a very broad definition and can involve almost everything. The job of the PM is to narrow down the task into bite size chunks so that the employees will not feel frustrated or uninformed.
This aspect is crucial as there are many instances during the project where each employ has to make independent decisions. When they don’t know the goal clearly enough, this judgment can in fact go against the efforts of the project manager. Employee conflicts can best be resolved with the involvement of the project managers. If they (the PM) see that an employee is under stress due to any issue (could be family or workplace dilemmas), they should talk to the employee.
Ask the employee to take some time out or try to resolve the issue with a friendly dialogue (McGraw, 2011). Means of Stress for Stakeholders Stakeholders are usually the financers of the project. They want results and satisfactory performance. They have invested their hard earned money in the project and are looking for a reasonable profit return on their investment. This return depends a lot on the project manager and the project team. Stakeholders can be put under stress when the deadline is approaching and there are no satisfactory results in in sight.
Sources of Stress from Dysfunctional Organizations Dysfunctional organizations can be very stressful for the project manager as well as for the team. Even if the project team is highly skilled and want to contribute honestly towards project management, they won’t be able to give their hundred percent. Their efforts will require contribution from the organization itself. And when the system will be dysfunctional, they won’t get the necessary input from the administration. For example, if they want to reschedule something in their project management, how would they be able to do so if there is no appropriate response from the organization?
Sources of Stress from Personal Traits Personal traits are a major source of conflicts with in a team. Every individual has different personality sets. And there is a good chance that two people will have conflict working or dealing with each other. For instance, if two people are working on a team, one is completely deadline driven and the other is more prone to finish tasks as soon as possible.
There is no question about their devotion to the team but when it comes to working them together, the project can suffer due to their different personality traits. It has been proven through many rigorous studies that interpersonal conflicts are best rectified with third party involvement such as the project manager (Giebels & Janssens, 2007). Another way to handle conflicts arising out of personality traits is to identify the people from the start. The HR department of the company can be very useful in analyzing and resolving a dispute.
People can be identified according to their background and the patterns of their behavior. Once this information is documented, it can be studied for an assessing an individual’s personality. Knowing the personality type of a person is the first step forward in this regard. Personality traits are deeply wired in the brain of an individual and they are hard to change. The best way to deal with them is through effective management. Adapting to and Coping with the Factors of Stress This factor needs to be dealt under several areas or headings.
For instance, the project managers will adapt a different policy for people (in the project team) who are having personality conflicts. Strict adherence to company’s policies and code of conduct is the right solution for this. The project manager can sternly tell employees that they need to follow company’s rules or be prepared to face consequences. These consequences can include; demotion, fines or extra work, or in severe cases, expulsion. The project manager needs to consider every conflict seriously.
Proper investigation should be made in to the matter. And in order to provide abstinence or at least, protection from such incidents occurring in future, an appropriate documentation. Archiving the conflict in document form can be very helpful in coping with these matters in the future. These documents can be discussed in detail in company meetings. Brainstorming over these matters is always helpful. Informal dispute resolution is another option for PMs, in case all other efforts go to waste. This is similar to those insurance cases where settlement occurs out of court.
Informal dispute settlement depends a lot on the tactics and understandings of the project manager. The PM will need to know the personality types of the two parties and their behavior patterns. The PM will need to know which factors (actions) are unacceptable for the parties and which things the parties can live with. Works Cited Giebels, E., & Janssens, O. (2007). Conflict stress and reduced well-being at work: The buffering effect of third-party help. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 137-155. McGraw, B.
(2011, March 03). Stress and the project manager. Retrieved from http: //fearnoproject. com/2011/03/03/stress-and-the-project-manager/ Robert, K., Wolfe, D., Robert, Q., & Diedrick, S. (1964). Organizational stress: Studies in role conflict and ambiguity. PsycINFO. Retrieved from http: //psycnet. apa. org/psycinfo/1965-08866-000