October 17, 2011 | Author: PM Hut | Filed under: Project Stakeholder Management
Project Management and Dealing With an Angry Boss
By Tony Neale
Your boss glares at you and angrily says “You had better get this Project back on track else I will find somebody who can!” and then storms out of the room.
How are you reacting to this? Does fear bubble to the surface? Do you start self doubting yourself and feel you have failed and therefore your job is now on the line? The above are common reactions to the angry behavior of your boss / Project Sponsor. This is one of the “internal” battles a Project Manager will face.
First of all you need to regain your composure by seeking out a quiet place and breathe deeply, or perhaps a quiet walk or a coffee to relax yourself. It is important to remind yourself of your resourcefulness and your professionalism as a Project Manager. Once you have composure you can then explore the Project problem. From the boss point of view the Project is lagging and not on track. From your perception what is the true status of the Project - is it on track? If so, then the problem is a communication issue that you need to precisely communicate back the true status of the Project. If not, then you need to define what specifically needs to be done to be put it back on track and provide a solid plan that you can present back to the boss.
Secondly, now that you have in your mind the Project true status and if need be a solid plan to bring it back on track then it is time to liaise with the boss. Note you will need to respond within 24 hours else it is likely that your boss will think you have no answer to his concern(s). At the same time, it is important to be able to read your boss and allow him sufficient time to “cool” down. My tip then would be write a concise email with Project Status updates and if required the outline of the plan to bring the Project back on track. The email should conclude with “Are there any other concerns that need to be addressed?”. This will allow your boss an opportunity to express concerns that maybe you were unaware of and gives you the chance to research and create a plan to address.
Thirdly, once prepared tee up a time with the boss preferably on neutral territory, perhaps at a nearby coffee shop. It is important for you to be in state where possible as to be approachable, respectful, receptive to new ideas, with poise, and be quietly assertive to present your plans and ideas. At all times stay calm whatever happens and read your boss’s emotions as best you can. If your boss becomes agitated or angry it is best to end the meeting and suggest there are things you would like to work on and talk to him again.
It is important to keep the communication up as best you can even if it is short bursts and display to your boss that you are actively addressing his concerns.
If the situation worsens then it is best to delicately as possible to find out more specifically what the boss concerns really are. It may be that you need to ask the question in a different way. My example questions would be: -
“Specifically what are your concerns about the Project”
“Specifically what are your concerns about how I am running the Project”
“Specifically what areas in the Project need improvement and why”
It is important that when your boss attempts to explain the concerns that you do the listening and prompt for clarifications. Avoid interrupting, interjecting or arguing this will only worsen the situation. Instead when seeking clarification ask questions like: -
“Please can you provide examples of…”
“Please can you elaborate on…”
“So that I am clear, I am hearing…. - is this correct?”
“You mentioned… - specifically what did you mean?”
“You asserted… - what evidence do you have to support this”
In summing up when you feel fearful of your job firstly:
- Relax and restore your composure
- Determine the true situation by clarifying the issues or concerns
- Create solid plans to address each issue / concern
- Communicate calmly, concisely and with respect. Listen more and clarify when required
- Continue to address each problem / issue until finally resolved
- Remember your own resourcefulness, poise and professionalism to carry you through when things get tough.
Remember you have power over yourself to conduct yourself with integrity and dignity. Even if your boss doesn’t have these qualities or shows little of these qualities then it is not your job to change your boss. Your job is to create the best working relationship under the circumstances to allow the Project to succeed. In time and when you get the score on the board you will earn more respect.
Tony Neale is an experienced Project Manager with more than 15 years experience on large projects with clients such as HP, Cadbury, Bluescope Steel, Amcor and many others. He is also certified with ITIL and provide expertise in Project Management Office arena. He currently likes to expand my interpersonal sphere of Project management and is a fully certified NLP Master under the Christopher Howard companies. Tony is an active PMI Melbourne (Australia) chapter member and has recently been appointed to the management team to start up the Project Management Institute (PMI) Melbourne Project Manager mentor / mentee programme. He has successfully managed Mentor programmes for a Global IT company. His passion is to enable people to be the best they can be and at the same time deliver great Project outcomes.
He has established his own Project Management coaching and mentoring business and his website is http://projectmanagementsolutions.com.au. Please visit and suggest articles you would like him to write for you.
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