Managing Team Stress

As a Project Manager, you are often a holding tank for team stress. We typically manage multiple teams, functions and our stakeholder group could easily exceed 100. Each team member reacts to stress differently, at different points in a project and even in their career. A Project Manager can be a team psychologist of sorts, needing to analyze behavior and trends in order to predict reactions and risk. Through it all, the Project Manager must take personal steps to maintain their own health, in order to maintain overall project health.

What do you do when team members begin to lack motivation and become distant? Sometimes things are beyond your repair. How do you respond to heightened emotions? There may be many drivers to someone’s reaction and emotion. Some people are better equipped with handling conflict, change and project adversity. The effect of these stressors can often be seen through an increase in chatter, procrastination and overall productivity loss. I find there are a few, level-setting areas the Project Manager can follow to help calm volatile project situations, while keeping themselves grounded.

  1. Strike a balance between objectivity and empathy: Employing active listening and putting yourself in others shoes is necessary to understand diverse reactions and viewpoints. Using that insight to help the person see the facts in the situation may help settle their concerns. In general, having a true understanding and appreciation for the person’s perspective will help you to help them sort through the situation.
  2. Become an expert at reading a situation: Become insightful and knowledgeable in knowing when you can improve a situation and when the situation is beyond repair. Take all steps you can to remedy the situation. However, you should also realize that sometimes a situation is beyond fixing. After you have exhausted and documented your efforts, don’t hesitate to engage the assistance of your leadership team, a mediator or unbiased third party to further research and attempt to resolve the situation. Our teams are made up of individuals with diverse backgrounds, personal challenges and the like. Sometimes project pressures cause personal issues to surface and come into the mix.
  3. Take time to gain perspective and calm emotions: Step away from the situation when you have attempted #1 and #2. Time apart can help you see dynamics that weren’t clear in the heat of the discussion.
  4. Write out your thoughts, feelings and observations: Writing is great therapy and helps to provide perspective. Organizing your thoughts requires you to think through a situation entirely, is a useful brainstorming tool and a therapeutic method to allow you to fully process the situation.
  5. Indulge in sunshine and exercise: Spending some time outdoors and some level of activity, whether a concerted exercise routine or social game of croquet can do wonders for your mood and help you to stay strong.

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