The superhero gene inherent in project managers can mutate and become something ugly. Such is the case with Ms. Bellows. Instead of discussing, she yells. People leave her office in tears. Behind her back people call her Yelly Kelly.
The problem is that she is successful. People jump when she says to and projects get done on time. This makes upper management happy and she is rewarded, reinforcing the original problem. Eventually no one willingly works with her and some of the best resources leave the department, company or even country.
If you see this trait in you, how can it be stopped?
This is a tough problem because there are so many factors tied in to it. Family origins, bullied as a child and an active inferiority complex are prime examples. I’m sure through psychoanalysis Freud would determine that she was deprived of Starbucks in junior high. Some of the blame obviously falls on the environment that allows or even fosters her behavior. Because everyone expects this attitude the cards are stacked against change. But if you see some of Ms. Bellows in your actions and want to break out of it, there is hope. Here are a few things you can implement to reduce the volume.
1. Acknowledge that it is a problem. Look at the negative impact it is having on your team and your ability to lead. Your feelings are legitimate. There are things that make us all mad. The problem is the action.
2. Address the causes. Sit down and make a list of the things that really tick you off, like dropped commitments, missed dates and unforeseen issues. You know what your hot buttons are. Now train yourself and your team to deal with the root causes of these problems before they happen. Record action items in meeting minutes so commitments are clear and expectations are set. Refine estimation techniques to set realistic dates and track to them. Use risk mitigation to identify potential issues and address them before they happen.
3. Take a deep breath. When you are ready to let fly with a verbal barrage take a hearty breath in through your mouth. This does 2 things for you. First, it is very hard to make your vocal cords yell when you are breathing in. Second, it gives you a brief chance to relax and change what you are going to say.
4. Replace yelling with a catch phrase. Instead of yelling, imagine if you said something like “I would normally be yelling by now, but….” Most people hear better when they are not being yelled at. The natural tendency is to become defensive or tune out. Catching them off guard with a quick quip may help them listen this time and do things differently next.
NOTE: Screaming is abusive and doesn’t belong in the work place. If you are a victim of a yeller and feel like you are in a hostile environment, speak to your HR department. If you recognize it in yourself, seek help.
Thomas Cutting, PMP is the owner of Cutting’s Edge (http://www.cuttingsedge.com/) and is a speaker, writer, trainer and mentor. He offers nearly random Project Management insights from a very diverse background that covers entertainment, retail, insurance, banking, healthcare and automotive verticals. He delivers real world, practical lessons learned with a twist of humor. Thomas has spoken at PMI and PSQT Conferences and is a regular contributor to several Project Management sites. He has a blog at http://cuttingsedgepm.blogspot.com.