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Why is project management a stressful job?

When it comes to stressful jobs, project management is one of the most stressful ones that you might come across. A project manager has direct responsibility for the failure or success of a project. There are those project managers who believe that the high level of stress that comes with the job is something that […]

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Project Manager

When it comes to stressful jobs, project management is one of the most stressful ones that you might come across. A project manager has direct responsibility for the failure or success of a project. There are those project managers who believe that the high level of stress that comes with the job is something that they can deal with and there are others who refuse to acknowledge that such high levels of stress exist. Stress can not only have an impact on your behavioural and cognitive performance but also on your personal health and wellbeing. It isn’t always possible to reduce the amount of stress you have on a daily basis, but there are certainly things that you can do to alter how you deal with, and deal with it you should because left unchecked it can become harder to handle.

As you might have learned during PM courses according to the Yerkes-Dodson curve a moderate degree of stress can in fact improve your performance however as stress increases performance decreases.

What causes stress in project management?

With every project the stresses may occur as a result of different issues however there are some common sources of stress that will be constant from one project to another:

  1. Timelines can be unrealistic
  2. There can be a lack of resources – equipment or people
  3. There can be an abundance of cross-cultural influences and virtual teams
  4. Within an organisation there can be inter-team conflict
  5. The project environment

Techniques for stress management

It is one of those important skills for project managers to understand and accept that they are under stress and then develop some self-discipline before they can learn the techniques that they need to manage their stress. In order to successfully manage stress, the project manager needs to be able to take an honest at themselves.

There is no one solution that can help everyone with their stress and no technique can completely eliminate stress. It is up to each individual to find the one that suit them. Techniques worth considering are:

  • Monitor “what if?” thinking – when something isn’t going well it is all to easy to start thinking “what if”, I had done this instead of that, rather than doing this you should focus on the present and ask yourself what ca I do in the next hour that can help improve this issue?
  • Detach or dissociate – you should use this one sparingly and with discretion, but if you are in a meeting here you are feeling very frustrated by wated time, or the attitude of a team member, allow your mind to blank it out.
  • Develop strong conflict resolution skills – stress is all too easy to come by so consider a menu of conflict resolution skills to help you reduce your stress.
  • Know when you have had enough – unfortunately when we are stressed it is too easy to find ourselves drawn into arguments; it is still fine to have a difference of opinion, but it is important to know when to step away.
  • Look for any inconsistent parts of the situation – in the middle of a stressful situation it can be easy to take everything too seriously. Look for something that is inconsistent and hold onto it. This should help to give perspective to your stresses.

Acknowledging and managing stress in any role is important to ensure your mental health and that of your team doesn’t suffer.

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