Stress in Project Management

The factors that serve to make any occupation especially stressful are responsibility without the authority or ability to exert control, a necessity for perfection, the pressure of deadlines, role ambiguity, role conflict, role overload, the crossing of organizational boundaries, responsibility for the actions of subordinates, and the necessity to keep up with the information explosions or technological breakthroughs. Project managers have all of these factors included in their jobs.

A project manager has his resources controlled by line management, yet the responsibilities of bringing a project to completion by a prescribed deadline are his. A project manager may be told to increase the work output, while the work force is simultaneously being cut. Project managers are expected to get work out on schedule, but are often not permitted to pay overtime. One project manager described it this way: "I have to implement plans I didn't design, but if the project fails, I'm responsible."

Project managers, unlike line managers or top executives, do not have the power or facilities to accomplish many of their objectives alone. They must depend on superiors, subordinates, and peers for the cooperation and efforts to make their projects successful, as they are constantly crossing organizational boundaries. Maintaining these three levels of interpersonal relationships is a juggling game that may make a consistent pattern of behavior almost impossible.

The project manager's superior is interested only in what is accomplished and may not be interested in hearing the specifics of how it was accomplished. The executive will hand down a list of required results, but it is the project manager's responsibility to translate that list into an organized system of behaviors that will produce the desired results. Whereas some levels of management have accessibility to a scapegoat if desired performance is not reached, the project manager has to assume full responsibility. He is evaluated on the results of the total operation and is solely responsible for whatever happens.

Additional high-intensity stressors in project management include unrealistic and inflexible time, cost, and performance constraints, unrealistic customer and environmental constraints, no direct input into the staffing process, no direct control or authority over resources after the project begins, no control over subordinates' salaries, and having to share key personnel with other projects.

The stresses of project management may seem excessive for whatever rewards the position may offer. However, the project manager who is aware of the stresses inherent in the job and knows stress management techniques can face this challenge objectively and make it a rewarding experience.

Project Management Made Easy

Project Management Made Easy

What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.

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