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Why People Hate Project Managers

Updated on November 15, 2012
No Friends?  Could it be your job?
No Friends? Could it be your job?

I recently interviewed for a project manager position. The person that interviewed me was also a project manager. She was confident, serious, knowledgeable, energetic, organized, and above all, terribly annoying. She sat there, all nauseatingly perfect, with my resume in front of her. My resume was marked up with underlines, circles, stars, and question marks. She also had a list of questions printed out that guided us through the interview. Jeez - who the heck writes an agenda for an interview? Uhhh, me, that's who.

Oh man. I was being interviewed by a carbon copy of myself, which meant that if she was a little-miss-super-annoying-pants, so was I. For the first time I realized how irritating I was as a project manager. (In the interest of preserving my self-esteem, I have convinced myself that I am only grating at work.) I have always been teased about being tough. In one organization, they compared me to a bulldog. In another, instead of Melissa, they called me Mel-zilla. I thought it was affectionate teasing but now I wondered if they all secretly hated me. But why? Why do people hate project managers? Here is a start...

1. Project managers will hold you accountable for your work, publicly. We bring attention to any missed deliverable on your part and we won't hesitate to call you out on it in some public way - in a meeting, in the meeting minutes distributed to the project team, or to your boss who we BCC in an e-mail to you.

2. Project Managers are riddled with stress and anxiety. We are trained to see and plan for all the project complexities, the worst-case scenarios, the risks, and the dark clouds surrounding the project. It's not that we see the glass half-full, it's that we see the glass half-full of the only water left on Earth, and there is a crack in the glass, and the water is leaking everywhere, and we need that water to put out a raging fire, and if we all burn, it's going to be our fault, and...well, you get the picture.

3. Project Managers don't care about the niceties of social interactions. I actually heard someone tell a project manager that they needed some "verbal foreplay" before jumping into all the work talk. Seriously, while we are asking about your kid's stupid play, all we are thinking about it how long do we have to endure the boring chatter until we can finally ask when the heck your report is going to be done and many times, our insincerity shows.

4. Project Managers ask people to do work beyond their usual responsibilities. We get it. You don't want to do "our" work but someone has got to do the project work and it's not going to be us. We have a project plan and some minutes to write and besides, we don't know anything about regression analysis or market analysis, or whatever it is you do.

5. Project Managers send out endless meeting invites. Have you ever considered that if you answered our e-mails or phone calls or actually spoke in a collaborative way to another department that maybe we wouldn't have to?

6. Project Managers seem to remember everything. Yup, we do. Because our butt is on the line for everything, we tend to remember every last detail (and we can dig out your e-mail from 6 months again to prove it). We are like people who have endured a traumatic event - every minor detail is burned into our brains.

7. Project Managers don't go away no matter how much you ignore them. We see the big picture of how the delayed completion of a task can affect other areas and even the outcome of the project - so no, we are not going to go away, we will keep buzzing around you like a darn mosquito until you give us what we need.

8. Project Managers just don't get it. Yes, yes, we know, we know. Your department is unique and you have some unique problem or work flow that our tiny pea project management brain can't possibly understand. It's not that we don't get it. It's that every project is, by definition, unique. If we seem cavalier, it's because your issues don't scare us. Plus, let's be frank, you are probably throwing up a smoke screen to try to get out of doing the work.

9. Project Managers create tons of documents that no one cares about. Wrong, we care. Project plans, minutes, risk logs, communications management plan, charters, lessons learned, requirements documents - they are anxiety control for us. This is all the crazy stuff that is in our head. I am sure some psychologist a long time ago made a project manager start writing this stuff down as a therapeutic exercise. The only problem was the project manager was supposed to rip it up and throw it away instead of killing 10 trees to make enough copies of it all to pass out at every meeting.

10. No one knows what Project Managers actually do. We plan, plan, worry, and then plan some more. To be honest, some days we are in such a whirlwind that we are not even sure what we did but it is important stuff, very, very important stuff. Trust us.

So take pity on us because we have no friends, we don't even like ourselves, and we need some serious professional help. I should also mention, we are terrible control freaks. As my kid likes to say about himself, "I am only bossy when you are doing things wrong." Now stop reading this and GO DO YOUR PROJECT WORK!

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    • profile image

      Mg 22 months ago

      Paz,

      Your PM sucked. Not all of us do. I stay up with my team through blood pain and 48+ hours of no sleep.

      When i say "We" I mean We.

      We're not all good. Same can be said for engineers.

    • profile image

      paz 2 years ago

      Actually, it's not just that, although you said enough. For me, a poor IT consultant who drowns his head in code for more than 8 hours a day, it's always about how they (didn't want to say their name but okay, project managers) do not care how things are done. All they care about is when, how much, how long, and this kinds of stuff. I know, I know, it's my role to care about the How and that's what I'm getting paid for. But it makes me furious how you guys don't seem to care about whether the job gets done properly as much as you care about checking its status as "COMPLETED" in your Excel sheets, MS Project, or whatever fancy tools you use! We're sitting all day (and all night a lot of times) trying to figure out how to solve a bug or come up with a solution, and you're way over there on your high horse, trying to green-color your task sheet! After all, isn't this the only thing you care about so you can get all the credit for what gets done by others?

      One time, we had a problem in Production. It required a lot, and I mean a lot, of work. The PM sent an email, putting every single email he could get his hands on in the CC, with an angry message saying that one should leave the site until this issue is fixed. 3 of us, low level slaves, went there immediately to save what can be saved. It was one of the hardest tasks I had ever faced. At 5 pm, the mighty PM shut down his laptop, put in its bag, smiled at us and said: "See you tomorrow, guys. Remember, nobody leaves until we get this thing fixed"! All I wanted to do at that moment is to get his laptop out of the bag and shove it in his, well, nose. I didn't need his help. Like all project managers I have worked with, he knows absolutely nothing about what we do. All I wanted is that, for some reason, a problem happened. You, as a project manager, have to do the least by understanding the nature of the problem and how much effort it will take to solve. Regardless, you have to stay on-site until this problem is solved. Otherwise, you cannot order others to! Anyways, what happened the next day didn't help overcoming all of my rage. After we stayed till 10 pm and solved the problem (partially actually), he sent an email telling the customer that "WE HAVE SOLVED THE PROBLEM!". You just can't imagine how much he got praised that day! Look, I'm not a little boy who gets jealous, but when it comes to credit, I need to know that my efforts are appreciated. This will affect many aspects of my professional life.

      Anyways, project managers, please stop pretending you know what I'm doing. Stop setting imaginable time frames and schedules. Stop dealing with tasks as numbers, they are NOT. Stop counting how many days the last task took and apply that to the next ones. Just stop it!

      Wooph. That feels good!