In the construction industry, being positioned as a project manager requires someone to be skillful in many areas as well as putting so much patience in the entire work. The work itself would bring so many high levels of stress because project managers are very much involved in all phases of construction projects: financial analysis, documenting, scheduling, handling legal requirements, billing, and many other construction work-related tasks. Each construction phase has solid and distinct demands and necessary requirements that need 100% attention from Project Managers (PM). Even with the best construction management software, it still is difficult to grasp and understand the stress coming from working in the construction industry.
With everything mentioned earlier, this only proves that project managers are undoubtedly one of the most stressful jobs existed for they are directly accountable for the overall success and possible failure of a certain project. Thus, the personal experience of stress isn’t only affecting the behavioral performance of PMs but also has a negative downside on personal health, mental health, and well-being.
If you find yourself in this controlling situation wherein you cannot change the amount of stress you consumed from working as a PM, it is important to apply stress management before everything turns more into a difficult circumstance.
Underlying Causes of Stress in Project Management
It is important to acknowledge and recognize the major causes of stress being experienced by the PMs so that it will be easy for them to address it and eventually resolve the issues the right and fastest way. Below are some of the most common sources of recurring stress while managing a construction project:
- Unrealistic timeline
- Project environmental conditions
- Deadlines and constraints
- Encountered Hazards and Vulnerabilities
- Multiplying of virtual teams
- Unrealistic Timeline
- Internal group conflicts within the organization
- Lack of resources – tools, equipment and/or laborers
- There are so many more occurring and repeating issues and the list goes on.
Coping Strategies for Project Managers
Taking note of self-discipline and developing it is a must. PMs must first acknowledge or recognize that they are falling under extreme stress while managing tasks and everything in between. Once self-discipline is developed, they can begin to proceed into learning and practicing the strategies and techniques in managing stress. Learning the techniques normally begins with the eagerness to know what exactly they have felt in an honest way while being under extreme pressure and stress.
Several techniques are effective in managing stress. However, it largely depends on the project manager. At the end of the day, he will be the one who has to decide what technique is best for him and what suits him the most or where he is most comfortable at. Remember that there is no particular technique that will completely eliminate stress entirely. That is why exploring each should be done. The following techniques below should be explored in order to identify and determine what works better.
Develop Strong Conflict-Resolution Skills
A project manager like any other is also a human. When responding to the rising issues, it is normal to either overreacting (intense emotions) or underreacting (still processing). Overreacting to the stressful situation is expected and both mentioned approaches tend to increase the ongoing stress. It is advisable that PMs should change how they approach problems occurring at the construction site. Developing strong-conflict resolution skills is definitely helpful for it to influence these professionals to be more open-minded and mentally strong. But it’s a great reminder that open communication to the team is also an effective help in avoiding potential confusion, nonessential delays- all of which mentioned contribute to stress.
Look for a contradictory element in the situation
In the middle of chaos during a situation that is intensely stressful, as a construction project manager, you might found yourself taking the situation too seriously and consumedly. Psychologists specializing in cognitive behavior normally say that people usually engaged in “catastrophizing” behavior, the same thing that PMs normally experienced when battling mental and emotional stress while doing project management. They often believed that the overall project can possibly be doomed all because of this one singular occurring issue. The only antidote for this is to look for a paradoxical cognition. This cognition will be the only thing that PMs can hold onto. This will definitely help them reduce their worries and stress and place it all in the right viewpoint.
This type of approach is used separately and selectively and this is better applied during meetings and important meet-ups. There will be some co-workers that PMs found very frustrating. It is important to basically recognize the negative feelings and know that it is a complete waste of time. Don’t take things that happened in the work too personal. In using the detachment technique, permit oneself to mentally and emotionally check out from the meeting when only it is appropriate. Let your mind and view wander to a much better and pleasant image. By then, you can casually calm and better your composure.
Know Limits and Avoid Debating
Debating to a co-worker or team member usually happens while the project is ongoing. This occurs a lot and this type of conflicted situation is inevitable. PMs must know that debating in any sense is often an unproductive approach in resolving a stressful and intimidating circumstance. It is okay to explain your side and your point of view as a leader who manages the project although it is important also to know when to stop. Proving yourself right all the time doesn’t make any sense in the latter part of the argument. It only increases the tension between you and the member resulting in much more stress and worries. That is why PM must know when is enough is certainly enough.
In the midst of the upsetting and distressing event, project managers tend to ask a few questions oftentimes wondering why it happens that way. Normally, questions implying of regretting how present issues dealt right now didn’t acknowledge from the past because by then it can be resolved right away. If it was acknowledged before, a crisis might not be occurring repeatedly now. A change of perspective can be an answer to this and a form of “what-if” thinking can provide a solid focus to PMs. Changing perspective is a redirection of focus. Project managers must start shifting their focus on what matters the most.
Create a Work-Life Balance
You should prioritize your well-being despite the unending work responsibilities and give yourself “ME time”. PMs should completely detach their selves for once from working too seriously. Stepping outside from work for relaxation is an obligation rather than an option. Life isn’t revolving around your work. Allow yourself to experience anything not related to your job site work. Treat yourself and relax once in a while. That’s a perfect work-life balance any project managers can able to achieve.
Preventing Stress Before It Starts
The above-mentioned coping strategies that could effectively help the project managers are really important in terms of managing stressors and triggers PMs cannot properly handle and change. However, it is also essential to take notice and give importance to several ways of reducing stress even before it will likely to start. Below are basic helpful tips that can be used in preventing extreme stress experienced by the PMs every single time while working and managing construction projects.
- Set realistic expectations
- Choosing reliable and skilled workers (contractors, subcontractors, crew)
- Create/ Lead a Collaborative and Responsive Team
- Use Construction Project Management Software
Communication is the Key
For project managers, fostering a work environment with open communication with all workers involved and the management can essentially help in alleviating the ongoing stress, risks can be lessened and delays can be avoided. Exchanging communication with every participating team member can create and foster a better understanding with each other, some sense of ownership, and harmonious collaboration. An open and expressive communication clearly allows everybody to burst out of their individual concerns, share bigger ideas, and sort out project priorities. Project managers can assure that everyone involved is in the same boat.
Make sure to impose weekly team meetings. In this way, it’ll easy for the crew to ask help, set priorities straight, and discuss important details in relation to the construction project. Good thing that a software tool such as project management software has been introduced now to the market and is widely used in the construction industry.
The true success in managing stress and pressure while working in this demanding industry doesn’t solely rely on the type of technique or strategy used, instead, it will basically depend on the firm commitment of the project manager. Commitment alone makes a huge difference. Once again, the strategies mentioned might not be work for everybody. That is why PMs must know that it is crucial to thoroughly ponder and take an honest and clearer view of their selves and whichever they want or where they are most comfortable. Determining which of those makes the most sense, and is useful and most practical is a must.
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