Aside from occasionally feeling like the Rodney Dangerfields of the business world, project managers can also suffer from a sense of isolation.
On larger projects, there are likely to be multiple team members from the same department working on deliverables within the scope of one project whereas it is rare to have multiple project managers working on the same project concurrently. In companies that have PMOs there might be some opportunities for birds-of-a-feather interaction, but it can get even more lonely in functional organizations where project managers are scattered across multiple departments or even worse where there may only be one or two project managers in the entire company.
As we know from Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, human beings need to feel a sense of belonging within a social group once their physiological and safety needs have been met. While each project team is a social group, the project manager may not find the peer-level support and interaction that they crave. Over a prolonged period of time, this can result in reduced job satisfaction and even the potential for an individual to question whether they have picked the right career path.
To combat this situation, here are a few ideas.
If you are in an organization that has multiple project managers, meet with other project managers to discuss the idea of a project “buddy system” whereby each project manager will commit to spending an hour or two a week with another project manager, understanding the current state and challenges on their project and providing guidance, advice and support. This approach is easier to implement within an established PMO, but a virtual community of practice can also be created in companies where a PMO does not exist.
Join the local chapter of your project management association (and join a project management association if you haven’t done so yet!) and participate in their regular events. Not only is this a good way to network and continue your professional development, but it might provide you with the opportunity to mentor (or be mentored) a fellow project manager. Venting about organizational project management maturity issues can be cathartic (so long as it doesn’t become chronic) and you will likely find a more understanding audience in such circles than in your company.
You could take this involvement one step further and actively volunteer with the chapter – you would be applying your project management skills to a worthy cause and I’m willing to be that you would most likely get more recognition and appreciation for your efforts than you might receive in your normal job.
Actively participate in project management online discussion forums – LinkedIn and PMI are a couple of good options. While you may feel that you have nothing to contribute, once you start following discussion threads, you’ll be surprised how much you know and are able to share. Many of these forums are very active and you might find yourself spending some time each day with your virtual support network.
While managing a project can sometimes make you feel like you are marooned don’t let that prevent you from building support “bridges” to nearby or faraway islands!