Project managers are often the hub of a project, dealing with issues and supporting the project team. But who do you turn to when things go awry?
RUOK? It’s not even a real word, but this question can make a world of difference. When Gavin Larkin started R U OK? day it was to honour the memory of his father, who committed suicide in 1995. Gavin believes that this conversation starter can make a real difference to someone who’s struggling to cope and could benefit from a friendly ear.
Project managers are particularly susceptible to stress. It may be from the role itself: a high-pressure project, dealing with stakeholder politics, long hours (and long years) leading to burnout. Even if you’re a highly resilient individual, and many project managers I know are, you are not superhuman. You are allowed to feel anxious, frustrated, tired.
Sometimes it’s internalised angst from needing to be seen as someone who is always ‘together’. As a leader, there is a tendency to put on a brave face, be the strong one. The result is you spend your time dealing with other people’s problems, making sure everyone on your team is all right and protecting them from any fallout that may come from a tough project environment.
This is where being in the centre of things can take its toll. When others see you as the problem solver, the person who takes care of things, almost never does anyone ask how you are doing, whether you’re coping. If you’re lucky you may get an offer of assistance with tasks but rarely a load off your mind.
I recommend a little self-care. Start with a little time to clear your head and a space where you can be honest with yourself. If no one asks you, ask yourself: Are you okay? What comes next is not as important as the first step, which is to listen to the answer. Are you okay?