Keep Project Personalities In Check

Project teams are comprised of a huge range of personalities, some assertive, others more subtle. This diversity provides significant benefit to the Project Team, as different perspectives and talents make for a very strong team. But as with most things in life, strengths can sometimes become weaknesses under certain circumstances. The same is true with individuals’ characters. There may be times when even the most enviable and beneficial of personalities becomes a liability. If your Project Team boasts some robust personalities, consider where they could go wrong and think about how the team can keep everything in check


Workaholics. There are many times when PMP®s must put in long hours and curtail other activities. People who can put their nose to the grindstone and shut out distractions may be at an advantage when schedules are particularly busy. However, when this behavior becomes the norm, several negative effects can ripple across the project office. As others aren’t able (or willing) to sustain an unreasonable working schedule, they may begin to feel guilty about how much they’re contributing. It can quickly turn into a morale crusher if work schedules aren’t brought back to an even keel.

Solution: Monitor the team’s efforts to ensure that no one is sliding into workaholic habits. If the long-term workload becomes unmanageable, consider shuffling responsibilities or identify external partners who may be able to take on additional tasks.


Arguers. A lot of people don’t like confrontation. If you fall into that category, then you probably like having an arguer on your project team. They can go toe to toe with pushy executives and uncooperative vendors so you don’t have to. This personality typically backfires when arguing no longer happens in support of progress and instead becomes mere sport. Being unnecessarily combative with stakeholders and collaborators doesn’t nurture good relationships, and it’s unproductive to boot.

Solution: If arguing strays into negative waters, pull the arguer aside and gently remind them that everyone is on the same side. The use of meeting facilitators is also an excellent (and neutral) way to keep tense discussions fruitful.


Teachers. While these individuals are naturals to take on internal training and mentorship programs, there may be times when their teaching talents become a negative. Unless they’re careful about limiting educational efforts to classroom exercises, teachers can sometimes reduce the efficiency of the group if they routinely take time out of the day to share their knowledge with others in the Project Team. There are many learning opportunities in project management, but teachers must be careful to balance education with productivity.

Solution: If teaching activities take over the normal workday, ask the teacher if a short course of structured training would be a more efficient solution. Learning is important, so finding a way to support it is better than quelling it entirely.


Leaders. Vital in Project Team operations, those with leadership skills offer tremendous value to the project team. But occasionally, leaders may actually hinder the group’s progress. It’s not uncommon, particularly during stressful situations, for the Project Team’s leaders to implement unilateral decisions rather than soliciting input from the rest of the team. Leaders may also delegate less when the project office is busy, sometimes pushing them into workaholic territory. By offloading fewer tasks to others in the Project Team, leaders could also potentially be depriving their co-workers of the opportunity to take on new challenges and develop new skills.

Solution: Empower everyone in the Project Team to speak up if they see a leader moving toward a hierarchy that doesn’t support a true team approach. Developing a group of equal leaders, even a small one, may also be helpful.


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