​What to do when your Project Manager isn't performing

Trying to salvage a project and poor-performing Project Manager isn't hard if you know a few key tactics.

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So, you've hired a Project Manager who is just not performing as expected. It can happen. Maybe they started out strong and their performance is slipping, or maybe they were simply not what you expected from the start. Maybe they're just not delivering on a particular project.

Now you need to decide whether you should let them go—or not.

Here are some tactics to try to salvage things and get the project and Project Manager back on track. Your goal getting to the heart of the problem— fast.

SEE: Leadership spotlight: How to make meetings worthwhile (Tech Pro Research)

Identify the project status and problem areas

Before taking any action, take time to closely review the project, milestone and task status, and any documented issues or concerns. This will provide you with insights into any problem areas that you may be unaware of instead of just basing performance issues on a Project Manager's performance.

Sometimes issues may arise from situations outside of their role. Even the best Project Managers will encounter roadblocks that are out of their control, and instead of bringing them to the attention of a project sponsor, they may try to handle things themselves without success. This is a lapse in judgment and can lead to additional problems that they may not be able to resolve.

Solicit feedback from other stakeholders

Get further clarification about project performance as well as the Project Manager's performance. This is not to say that third-party feedback should be the sole factor in decisions, rather it should be one factor. But external impressions and points of view can provide useful insights. Feedback combined with project-specific performance and status, and direct dialogue with the Project Manager should allow for sufficient information to decide on the best course of action.

Talk to your Project Manager about your concerns

Direct and immediate communication is the best approach when it comes to identifying the real issues that may impact a Project Manager's performance. Set time for a face-to-face sit down with your Project Manager and discuss the following:

    1. Your exact concerns, including detailing which areas are being impacted and how.
    2. Share concerns from other stakeholders without outing or identifying them. The goal is discovering issues impacting performance, not uncovering identities and introducing conflict.
    3. The Project Manager's concerns and what things might impact their effectiveness.
    4. The strategies to resolve any issues.
    5. The timelines to rectify any issues.
    6. Your expectations around their performance once issues are resolved.

    Do set enough time for this—not during two minutes in the corridor or while you're sorting paperwork on your desk. After gathering facts and feedback, you should be able to assess the true source of the performance issues with your Project Manager.

    SEE: Employee termination policy (Tech Pro Research)

    When all else fails

    Make sure to carefully weigh the impact of your decisions against the project, stakeholders, resources, timing, and the organization as a whole. Whenever possible, it is better to help a Project Manager improve performance and allow a project a chance to be successful with little disruption.

    Firing your Project Manager should not be the first step, but rather the step you exercise when other options are unlikely to make a difference to their performance. There is always a cost-benefit evaluation to be made, balancing the chances and time needed for performance improvement, against the costs of negatively impacting stakeholders and jeopardizing the chances of a successfully executed project.

    Also see

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    Image: Diego Cervo, Getty Images/iStockphoto

    By Moira Alexander

    Moira Alexander is the Founder of PMWorld 360 Magazine and Lead-Her-Ship Group, and a project management and digital workplace columnist for various publications. Moira has 20+ years in business (IS&T) and project management for small to large busine...