I was recently put into a new project. I've encountered my new project manager before and while there's a few things about this PM that concern me:

  • They can be very friendly and open, but also very aggressive and demanding
  • They are (outward) very sure of themselves and almost never admit faults
  • They are IMO manipulative
  • We are from different engineering disciplines so most of the times I'm in no position to judge their work, the few times I worked with something they produced I found it to be very rushed and not well thought through.
  • They prefer to run teams with little outside communication, which is totally absurd in our specific company
  • They often - this is my biggest issue - are either delusional or downright dishonest about work they did or how clear they communicated demands

My first meeting of the new project started with the (very junior) colleague from whom I'm taking over being chewed out for not delivering. From my experience with this PM and talks with the young colleague, PM likely did not give as much guidance as they claim they did. In the past, I also found the whiplash between friendly and aggressively stressful (talking about shared hobbies on one day, getting chewed out in a meeting the next is harder on me than harsh words from my boss)

Some additional information:

  • We're consulting engineers
  • PM is not only horrible, or even most of the times. For example they do their best to "reward" teams and are mostly understanding of basic stuff like sick leave etc.
  • We have regular project meetings, everyone takes their own notes, usually there's no minutes for internal meetings
  • Since my first projects with this PM, I've taken care to keep the relationship more distant

This project will likely take one to two years. The project, the plant we will design and build, is cool and I have little choice in the matter anyway, but I want to avoid getting into trouble with this PM. My primary goal is to avoid situations where I'm chewed out or badmouthed with my boss. My secondary goal is to get the standing where I can, if necessary, support other colleagues against the PM.

What are effective habits to manage such difficult managers?

  • 5
    How to work with a difficult PM - Ask the European leaders - they May have some pointers :-) – Ed Heal Apr 10 '19 at 12:10

Been there. Done that.

Several employers ago I had a PM for a two-year project who was not only a disagreeable person she was also incompetent.

For example, there were established procedures for moving code from development (sandbox) to the intermediate environments. We'd submit a request before noon and build engineers would move that evening. Inefficient. Yes. She always wanted us to have code moved "immediately" as it was always a crisis. I burned many bridges going around the system that all teams were using. My bar tab was huge. :)

Another example. All requests for help from other teams (we were extremely siloed) were to go through her - no exceptions. If she didn't understand what we were asking (such as a new API endpoint) she would sit on the request until it became critical and (again) have us bend the rules.

============================================================================= So what did I do.

One word. Document (everything).

Like you we didn't have meeting notes. So I wrote up meeting notes and emailed to the team for corrections/comments.

Whenever I had a request it was made via email with a CC to her supervisor. I would state what was requested, when it needed to be completed and any blockers. For example, in an API request I would give the date we needed the API and the lead time that team needed (two weeks). I would then follow up weekly (via email) for the request number from the other team. When the request wasn't submitted within the lead time I would pointedly ask (again CCing her boss) what her plans were for the project blocker.

Basically for these I had to manage the manager. Of course she was pissed. She was relieved of PM duties within four months (claimed sexism in the complaint to HR). The replacement PM was 1000% better.


Have you already signed a contract? I haven't been in your situation but usually when you start a project they usually get you to sign a contract for a year or two (to avoid having to recruit halfway through a project).

If so, then it is tough luck, stay out of her way and make detailed notes in case conflict arises (get you fellow employees to do so too so you can put substantial evidence against her). I suggest to leave once your contract ends and if it affects any future employment then explain the situation in detail.

Good luck!

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