Project Management

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Topics: Leadership
Working with Challenging People....
When stakeholders or team members display the following, what have you found to be an effective way to handle these behaviors?

1. Blaming others and making excuses.
2. Diminishing the contributions of others.
3. Spreading innuendo and rumor.
4. Exaggerating the importance of other member’s contributions.
5. Demanding respect because of positional power or service longevity.
6. Being impatient or frequently short tempered.
7. Talking down to others.
8. Acting entitled to special treatment or privileges.
9. Justifying their poor treatment of others.
10. Being overly critical of others.
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Wow, this is quite a loaded question so early in the morning (posting time) but it depends. Let's toss out a scenario of what could happen to turn this around...

Let's get right to the root cause of the behavior and let's pick some roles for fun...

There is probably no other way to describe this person but as a "Bully Leader". It's unfortunate but there are ways to handle this starting from the top down.

CEO: As the leader you set the tone and walk the talk of the core values of the organization. HR has reported to you that an individual is bordering a zero tolerance for some HR policies. You direct their functional manager to address the problem along with HR assistance. Culture

Functional Manager/HR:
Apparently, this employee is a good employee with long tenure however may need some coaching to change their behavior.

Executive Coach:
An executive coach can turn a nonperforming employee into a great employee with an action plan with long term results. This can include 360 Feedback, strength assessment tools, culture and self awareness training,

Employee: Through focus on your action plan to improve/change your behavior you will be more self aware and focused on building relationships instead of breaking them down.

You may be a staff, team member, project leader, colleague who has experienced one or more forms of this type of behavior. Training in conflict management, facilitation, self awareness, emotional intelligence and leadership skillsets will help you facilitate better outcomes, stay focused on the work at hand, maintain a positive team culture and stay true to your organizational core values. Everyone has a bad day but don't let your team takeover your projects; maintain clear ground rules of engagement, have a strong core network and engage a strong sponsor to make sure your team is clear on the vision and culture required in your organization and on your projects.

Naomi Caietti, PMP

I cannot say that i am an expert at handling challenging people in the workplace. I have seen others who are masters at it while I am still a padawan. With that said, I find that there must be some underlying reason why these behaviors are being exhibited. I am not saying that everyone needs to have a PhD in Sociology or Psychology, but I did hear a great speaker (Tom Peters) recently talk about how having a little bit of sociology in your repertoire is a very good thing.

Now, that does not mean that we have to psychoanalyze our stakeholders/peers. It does mean that we have to be socially aware and emotionally intelligent. In trying to understand the underlying motivator or cause of an outwardly challenging behavior will help tremendously with stakeholder dynamics. If a project manager can focus on mutually beneficial objectives and fulfill a need for a stakeholder, then he/she has a recipe for success.

This is hard work, but can be very worthwhile. Sometimes, a project manager is pressed for time and cannot work this solo. That is the time to employ the assistance of one's supervisor to be a teammate on this ascertainment of underlying cause(s). Stay active in this process. A project manager should not just delegate upward and forget about it because ultimately, one's project is still at stake and a project manager cannot just abdicate responsibility.
Stakeholders or team members desires could reflect as one or more of the behavior listed by you.

Sponsor should really be strong and show genuine interest in the project.
Understand the root cause of such behavior. This can be found by closely watching the stakeholder or team member.
Clear way of stating the requirements, roles, responsibilities, metrics and method of measuring the metric need to be communicated.

If an individual has got a design fault in his behavior, he should be clearly informed that this cannot be tolerated
I would say the paying field is not level, that's why all this is happening. First thing to do is understand all the expectations and manage them. If the blame game is on, project will suffer. Ground rules must be established from the outset and SMART goals established. When everyone has an objective to meet, they do not have time to look around and blame or compare with others.
I think it is needed to consider two different aspects:
1 - As human beings we are influenced by contingency which can direct, partially, our behavior in some aspects of our life and attitudes toward other people. As they are pure contingencies they are limited in time so the "issues" created by them could be solved in few time and reduced effort- if we (the protagonist of the behavior and ourselves) act proactively in this way. In other terms we can "easily" influence for good solutions. In my experience I noticed we have to act in two different times: in the hot “moment” we should contribute to cool the situation and, only in a second time, we can work to solve the issue.
2 - At the same time every person is guided by some elements, the "principles" which influence profoundly, and permanently, his "basic" behavior. We cannot change them because they are part of the most intimate of the person and are part of the character of him.
It is clear that in this second aspect we cannot act as in the first one but it is much more important we work for understanding the principle of the person and why this person has these principles.
It is neither an easy nor a rapid way, but we must go along it. How to proceed?
I think the first step is to avoid our personality; our judgments influence our behavior toward this person.
The second step is to try to understand the principles which guide him, the fears and the interests
The third step is to try to think as we would be this person – how he would act in this circumstance? How he react? Etc.
The last step is related to find a way for solving the issues and, for my personal experience, it is possible only when we are really interested in the good of the person and not only in the progress of the team and project
Timely feedback and a gentle reminder to their reporting manager will do a lot of wonders. Also, reminding them of the policies and gentle feedback face to face works. You may have apply both form time ti time.

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