Bad Coworkers 2 – BadPM

Shortly ago I had to go back and dig through my old posts. I knew I had one about problematic coworkers. With significant amusement it turned out to have been almost exactly a year ago. But of course, the iffy coworker problem is eternal.

(for reference, I started this post a couple weeks ago. more on the delay below)

I have a lot of Project Managers to deal with and have done so for many years now. Some are good… I referenced ArmyPM in a previous post, and he’s pretty damn effective. And there was another I never came up with a name for that was also good, but she switched out to a non-PM role. Plenty have been mediocre.

But a few have been bad. Baaad. And right now I’m working with one of the frontrunners for the top of that list. I shall simply call her BadPM.

BadPM got stuck with a bit of a rough start here, in that she was the third or fourth PM to be attached to this one project, which is quite small but somewhat aggravating. And admittedly it takes a while to get caught up on how our environment works.

But like the previously discussed bad coworker, BadPM’s difficulties seem astonishingly basic, like having a room full of people trying to tell her how to update the completion status on a copy of Microsoft Project (hint: dropdown box), the basic tool of about 80% of PMs out there. Or not sending out meeting minutes or logging action items. Or having months-long difficulty recognizing what employees are responsible for what areas, or how to engage with them. All this may seem minor, but they’re kind of why a PM even exists.

It gets worse, though. We had a kickoff meeting for a project on 4/28 wherein our development partner said they needed servers from us. It was in their project status update slides, it SHOULD have been logged as an action item for the PM to order. Two weeks later in the followup meeting, BadPM not only hadn’t done it, but was surprised and wondered if that had even been brought up (fortunately I had a copy of the presentation on hand to show her). And as such, this project that was meant to be a 6 week engagement is already 2 weeks behind.

That initial project is still struggling due to piss-poor organization. Another one already suffering some critical failure. The boss, who had been leaning heavily on her at first, has begun to be open about his frustrations (the rest of us have been for quite a while). He asked me a while back what I thought, and I was honest: “We have a lot of ingrained culture that it takes a while to pick up on, but I’m seeing a lot of issues here. If she hasn’t caught up in the next month or so we’ll have a real problem.”

It’s been more than a month.

It’s gotten worse than having to cover for her crap, though. I’ve reached a point where I’m concerned that putting in a good effort for myself will end up masking her failures and causing the root issue to suffer on longer than it needs to. Other people are drifting away from the project and not being responsive.

– I’d stopped writing here and put it aside a week ago. Things finally looked like they were coming to a head. The roller coaster has kept on going, though, and so I pick up the narrative.

One of my coworkers owns the application she’s updating in the failure project. He, of course, is pissed off, or in office speak, “deeply concerned”. He went to our mutual boss with a spreadsheet of issues that have come up. They agreed, to protect the project, to require her to run a brief daily call to make sure everyone’s working together and nothing is missing. She managed to fuck that up too. Probably on a totally unrelated note, boss hired a new PM for another project recently.

But that same coworker came to me this morning and asked if I, regarding the “situation with the irredeemable”, felt there was any way to salvage that whole situation. He’s been managing a lot of this on the back end to keep the ship sailing straight (and here we get back to the ‘worried to do a good job to make it look better than it is’ thing). I gave an honest anecdote I won’t share here. He left with his face in his hands.

The worst part, I think, is that she’s not a terrible person. Disorganized to a degree I’ve only once before seen in a Project Manager. A bit airheaded, sure. Consistently late, yeah. But man, she’s making every step of these projects difficult for everyone, in the exact ways that any functional PM shouldn’t. If I had a way to record all of this shit I’d make millions selling it as a “How Not To” sort of series.