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Recently I've been promoted to a senior position where the responsibility include managing a project. To help me with the overall project, the company provided me 2 persons (resources) that are also senior and older than me.

It happens that I have a serious problem with this 2 people. Allow me to explain.

One looks like doesn't want to listen to me and both don't want learn or work, so they just do the bare-minimum (or less of it).

For instances, each time i try to explain an activity they've never done, they mislead it and this becomes problematic.

Even though this is going on, the company wants me to keep on working with them and make them operational.

So, would like to know your experience in such situations, including your approach. Thanks in advance for your time.

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Project Management Fundamentals

Managing a project involves considering its constraints, namely scope, resources, schedule, budget and risk. So, part of managing the project requires managing people when they are resources allocated to that specific project.

Human Resources (HR) Management

Activity resource requirements is a primary input used to determine the HR needs for the project. If the company allocated to that project two resources i reckon your company considered it and decided the project you're managing requires them.

Your point-of-view is of someone managing a specific project. It is unclear if you're seeing the whole picture or just considering the project when you say they don't work or do the least as possible. A few thoughts come to mind

  • Utilization vs. throughput situation. Some managers expect workers to perform 100% of the time, but that's unrealistic.

  • Are they allocated to other projects? Sometimes workers are switching often between projects, activites or tasks and this has its impacts.

  • You don't treat them in a good way. Picking up the learning example, you say they haven't done any activity like that before, but how do you know it and how far is that different from their common work? The following excerpt suits such case (except in this case we're not talking about moral matters)

"Reasoning in moral matters is always reasoning with somebody. You have an interlocutor, you start from where that person is, or with the actual difference between you; you don’t reason from the ground up, as though you were talking to someone who recognized no moral demands whatever."

Taylor, C. (1992). The Ethics of Authenticity.

  • They really don't work. How do you know and what leads you to say that? (You need grounds for that accusation)

They really don't work...

It already happened to me managing a project remotely that required 5 resources (including me). 1 decided to go away from the firm and 3 (that were also dedicated to other projects) showed up very seldom, so they worked less than bare-minimum. The project had a tight deadline, was important to be delivered and everyone had different incentives accordingly to their objectives. I ended up doing most of the work and was more rewarded for it. It already happened as well one i didn't get any distinction and was ok because they were just to me and gave what was agreed in the first place.

How to proceed

Would consider the thoughts mentioned above to get more clarity for the case and learn more about managing resources.

  • 1
    +1 for the expectations and understanding their allocation. – Tiago Cardoso Aug 7 at 7:04
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Maybe I am wrong, but from your message I can see two main problems:

  • No common way of working (their way and what you have in mind)
  • You have resources but you don't have a team

I was confronted to the same situation last year: new team, different profiles, different ways of work. It took me 6 months to get full speed as a team.

Keep something in mind: you have lot of things to teach to these guys, but they also have lot of things to teach you. This is why teams are powerful.

If I was in your situation, the first thing I will to is run a retrospective that allows me to:

  1. Identify a common goal (or get aligned to the common goal defined by the company)
  2. Let these guys to express their feelings and frustrations
  3. Define your working agreements

Once you guys start growing as a team, agree in how you will work will be "peanuts".

For the retrospectives, I use design thinking. You can find the retrospective session outline on my article "Design thinking retrospective protocol".

I hope this helps,

Falcon

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Please excuse the condescending tone, but you did ask for my approach. So here it is, in the raw:

Firstly, you need to change your attitude. As a successful project manager, you do get along with your team. A PjM who cannot get along with everybody is doomed to failure. If you can't do that - or at least fake it - then get yourself another job.

Secondly, you need to start taking responsibility. Communication is a 2-way street, but if they aren't listening to you, assume the problem is with your approach, attitude or ignorance. Stop blaming other people.

Next: Treat your team with the respect they deserve. Since they are older and senior to you, treat them as such. Possibilities: Ask them for suggestions instead of dictating to them. Maybe the reason they are not cooperating is because they know, from experience, that this project is already dead, for example. I know that respect is old fashioned but it works - especially with people older than you.

Build the team. You may be the PjM but you are useless without your team. Build the team; get to know them. Shmooze to them, find out their background and experience. Find out their favorite drink and pastime and join them. Once you're all good buddies then they will automatically be cooperative.

Keep in mind that as things stand, you are the new bull in a China shop who plans on rocking the boat and creating unnecessary work. They've probably dealt with a dozen of your predecessors and are well experienced in how to get rid of you.

Summary: Stop working for a few weeks and concentrate on creating the team. Hang out with the boys and become their buddy. Then you can start asking their opinion about how to get some work done.

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