Six Signs You Might Have a Problem With a Project Team Member

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The author spent the first part of her career working in IT and IT Project Management in the oil industry and investment banking on complex global projects involving the management of outsourced project teams. She now runs a digital marketing company with particular expertise in technical SEO and Content Marketing.

It can be all too easy to focus on the processes and procedures that get a project done and to overlook the people who are ultimately responsible for its success. However, more and more project managers are coming to realise the value of emotional intelligence and the necessity of the softer skills of management if they are to be an effective manager of people as well as budgets and timescales.

Unhappy employees can seriously affect the success of a project, and their demotivation and negativity can start to rub off on your entire project team. Being aware of changes in behaviour and performance is critical if you are to stay a step ahead of the game and to recognise issues before they develop into major problems. Spotting the tell-tale signs of demotivation and disengagement gives you the opportunity to put things right before it has a significant impact on the team.

6 signs your team member might be unhappy

  1. Timekeeping: Turning in work late, turning up to work late and missing meetings entirely should all be noted, particularly if they are out of character for that particular person.
  2. Behaviour: You might find the employee complains more than usual, and over issues that usually would not have bothered them. You might also find they become irritated or overly sensitive when asked a question.
  3. Procrastination: Unhappy employees will often find reasons to avoid work, so you may see they are on non-work related websites or texting on their phone when they should be busy.
  4. Meetings: If they do turn up to a meeting, you might notice they are a little agitated and seemingly disengaged with the process. They are likely not to participate in group discussions or to ask questions about anything under discussion.
  5. Productivity: The person might demonstrate a reduction in productivity, or it may be that the quality of their work deteriorates.
  6. Time off: You may notice the employee suddenly starts to take sick days, personal time or unpaid leave, whereas before these events were few and far between.

What to do next

If you suspect someone in the team is unhappy or otherwise demotivated, you need to take positive action before the situation develops any further. It can be tempting to brush the person off as a ‘bad apple’, or to think that they just don’t like the job any more, but often under further investigation it can be revealed that actually it is something you can rectify fairly easily.

A good way to take first steps to identifying and solving the problem is to hold a performance appraisal. This will give the employee a chance to open up, in a structured way, about the parts of their job they like and dislike. Do some self-appraisal too, and try to engage the employee in 360 degree feedback as there is the possibility that your management style is, at least, part of the problem.

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Project management has developed into a fully-fledged chartered profession since the granting of the Royal Charter in the UK to The Association for Project Management (APM) in 2017. Training courses for project managers were already available and highly popular to help people gain professional project management accreditation, but with this wider recognition of the profession it is now seen as a desirable career path for many. Whilst the APM has the coveted Royal Charter and continues to develop its APM PMQ (formerly the APMP) programmes, there are also other internationally recognised qualifications that continue to be highly regarded such as PMP and PRINCE2.

Organisations have become increasingly project-focused in this era of rapidly emerging new technologies and they value the expertise that comes with experienced and fully qualified project teams and managers. By investing in their project management capability businesses can be confident of delivering their new projects in time and on budget more often and more successfully. Many major corporation are now training their people to have the right project management qualifications as well as relevant experience, through internal Learning & Development (L&D) programmes; or by using external project management training providers.

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