Project Management National Conference 2011                                  PMI India  Learn how to identify and deal wit...
Project Management National Conference 2011                                                                        PMI Ind...
Project Management National Conference 2011                                            PMI IndiaAbstract- We discuss a spe...
Project Management National Conference 2011                                           PMI India                 managers b...
Project Management National Conference 2011                                          PMI India                 It has been...
Project Management National Conference 2011                                        PMI India                 4) He picks u...
Project Management National Conference 2011                                         PMI India                 10) He would...
Project Management National Conference 2011                                          PMI India                     the mai...
Project Management National Conference 2011                                          PMI India                 Since “B” h...
Project Management National Conference 2011                                         PMI India                 2) He may al...
Project Management National Conference 2011                                        PMI India                 The company h...
Project Management National Conference 2011                                       PMI India                 the MD. He sho...
Project Management National Conference 2011                                  PMI India                 Vimal Kumar Khanna ...
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  1. 1. Project Management National Conference 2011 PMI India Learn how to identify and deal with your "Negative Boss" and "Negative Peer Managers" Vimal Kumar Khanna Managing Director – mCalibre Technologies2|P a g e Application of Select Tools of Psychology for Effective Project Management
  2. 2. Project Management National Conference 2011 PMI India Contents 1 INTRODUCTION..............................................................................................................4 2 RELATED WORK............................................................................................................4 3 NEGATIVE BOSS.............................................................................................................6 4 NEGATIVE PEER MANAGERS...................................................................................10 5 REFERENCES.................................................................................................................13 6 Author’s Profile................................................................................................................133|P a g e Application of Select Tools of Psychology for Effective Project Management
  3. 3. Project Management National Conference 2011 PMI IndiaAbstract- We discuss a special breed of managers termed as “Negative Managers”. These managersare not capable to handle their responsibilities and hence resort to undue means to hide theirincapability. We discuss ways by which you can identify and deal with your “Negative Boss” and“Negative Peer Managers”, with case studies from leading global software product and servicescompanies. Keywords: Negative Manager, People Management, Soft Skills. 1 INTRODUCTION Companies sometimes have some managers who can be termed as “Negative Managers”. A Negative Manager is a manager who is incapable to handle his role and responsibility but hides his incapability by resorting to undue means- unethical/unprincipled behaviour, lies, cunningness, pettiness, games/politics, ill- manners, etc. We describe ways by which you can identify and deal with your “Negative Boss” and your “Negative Peer Managers”, with case studies from leading global software product and services organisations. 2 RELATED WORK Our work builds upon, expands and complements the related work in literature on application of psychology techniques to handling inter-personal relationship. Transaction Analysis (TA) theory [2,3,4] states that the way individuals transact with each other is due to their being in one of three ego states – “parent” state where they behave like their parents behaved; “child” state where they behave as they used to behave in their childhood; or “Adult” state where they behave maturely after objectively evaluating the facts. TA introduces a concept called ‘games’ that imply a complicated transaction where the latent meaning of the communication is quite different from the words spoken [2]. Individuals must sense the game being played by others and respond accordingly, else they will suffer. The behaviour of the negative managers can be mapped to “Second Degree” games under TA – the games that are played in a clandestine fashion and can cause significant harm to you (your career). It has been discussed in [1] that you should pay attention to the games other managers play, to ferret out the true tenor of communication and to respond by putting on the suitable cap of an ‘adult’, ‘parent’ or a ‘child’. However, all the above works assume that you can decipher the games being played by negative managers to deal with them. Unfortunately, negative4|P a g e Application of Select Tools of Psychology for Effective Project Management
  4. 4. Project Management National Conference 2011 PMI India managers behave in very cunning and subtle fashion and are able to hide the fact that they are playing games. It has been stated in [1] that if you are unable to sense the game, you are certainly going to lose. Hence, you need to learn techniques to identify the games being played by negative managers. We are suggesting multiple such techniques. Further, the above works suggest mechanisms to deal with game being played in an individual transaction (i.e, the current transaction). Hence the solutions are short-term. The actions of negative managers can cause long-term harm to your career. Hence, we also present mechanisms to neutralise their actions on a long- term basis. Rational Emotive Behavioural Therapy (REBT) states that one’s behaviour is dominated more by one’s beliefs than by actual stimulus [5,6]. A person with positive beliefs does not grumble about unfavourable conditions, does not indulge in self-blame on failures, and uses his positive energy to tackle a negative event to ameliorate its unfavourable consequence. The behaviour of a negative manager can influence your beliefs, and your line of thinking on a subject matter may get distracted, resulting in your making wrong decisions. It is suggested in [1] that you should harness REBT to keep off the unnecessary influence from polluting your own rational belief system. By sticking to your positive beliefs, you would be able to succeed in your tasks. However, negative managers not only impact your beliefs but also negatively influence the people and work environment around you. Hence, sticking to your beliefs alone may still make you fail due to these external factors. You would need to take some additional steps to totally neutralise these external influences of negative managers, as described in this paper. Company HR managers generally interpret the personality types and negative behaviours of its managers and reform them by TA/REBT techniques. HR reforms negative managers by inculcating in them a positive belief system (REBT) or by sharpening their “Adult” ego mode (TA). However, to achieve this objective the HR needs to interpret the personality type and detailed behaviour patterns of these negative managers, to be able to map them to known types to decide requisite therapy. The techniques presented by us would allow you to decipher large number of these behaviour patterns of a negative manager to be reported to HR. Hence, our work complements the TA and REBT approaches in this respect.5|P a g e Application of Select Tools of Psychology for Effective Project Management
  5. 5. Project Management National Conference 2011 PMI India It has been discussed in [1] that some managers have personality disorders like being paranoid/histrionic/narcissistic and they have presented mechanisms to deal with them. However, our work is different from the above work since a negative manager is not suffering from an inherent personality disorder over which he has no control. He is deliberately engaging in negative behaviour to hide his limitations. Hence, different techniques are required to handle such behaviour, as presented in this paper. 3 NEGATIVE BOSS 3.1.1 Identifying your Negative Boss You should look for the following behaviour to identify if your Boss is less capable than you and is acting negatively- 1) He cannot apply scientific methods of management. However, he remembers these management theories by heart and can quote them at length in front of top management. Hence, top management does not believe that the project deliverables are failing due to his lack of management skills. He fools them into believing that the failures are due to lack of skills of his reporting team. 2) Due to his lack of understanding of scientific management methods, he can never judge the capability of his reportee managers. If you are ensuring that scientific management processes are being followed, project targets are being met and all issues are under control then he concludes that you are not working hard! Instead, he is happy when an incapable reportee manager regularly creates crises, is always fire fighting and his team always looks hassled. He believes that it is a good scenario since the team always “looks busy” and the manager always “works hard”. 3) He does not think long term. Most of his decisions are made instantly to fight the current fire, although these may lead to bigger fires later.6|P a g e Application of Select Tools of Psychology for Effective Project Management
  6. 6. Project Management National Conference 2011 PMI India 4) He picks up ideas from his reportees and presents them to top management as his own ideas. 5) He feels insecure of having more capable reportees under him since he fears that in the future they may out-perform him, and finally replace him. Hence, he recruits less capable reportees. When the top management interacts with him and his team, his lack of skills is not exposed since he is surrounded by more incapable persons. Thus, comparatively, he looks capable to top management. 6) However, this process of recruiting incapable reportees significantly hurts the organisation in the long run. He recruits incapable managers. These incapable managers recruit even more incapable reportees. Hence, in the long run, the company is infested with very incapable managers at all levels. 7) He avoids having open channels of communication with his capable reportee managers since he knows that if he talks in front of them his incapability would be exposed. Instead, he always has open channels for incapable managers and they keep sharing inane management ideas at length among them. 8) He will try all means to get rid of you. He would ensure that your capabilities are not exposed to top management. If a complex problem is encountered, he is aware that his incapable reportees cannot handle it. Hence, he would smartly couple you with his incapable reportees as a “team” to tackle the problem. If you would be able to provide a solution, he would make you share the credit with incapable reportees since they worked together as a “team”. He may even hide the fact that you found the solution, and give all the credit to the incapable reportees. 9) He would always paint a more positive image of his incapable reportees, as compared to you, in front of top management. He will promote incapable reportees but would not give you a growth path.7|P a g e Application of Select Tools of Psychology for Effective Project Management
  7. 7. Project Management National Conference 2011 PMI India 10) He would get to know you dislikes, either during your job interview or in course of your stay in the organisation. He would then ensure that your work environment and responsibilities are as per your dislikes, to provoke you to leave. E.g., if he knows your technical domain of interest, he would ensure that you are never assigned projects to be managed in that domain. 11) However, if all means to discourage you to make you leave the organisation fail then he will resort to sending you insulting mails with personal attacks, and mark mail copies to your reportee team and your peers. The aim is to provoke you to respond in a similar fashion. If you respond with a curt mail, he will distort the contents and use them to play more politics by sharing your curt responses with the top management without informing them of his provocations. 3.1.2 Dealing with your Negative Boss After you have noticed his above behaviour you would have identified that your Boss is negative. You should first have a one-on-one talk with him informing how is behaviour is impacting your performance. If your Boss can provide genuine reasons for his behaviour then he may not be negative as you had assumed. Alternatively, even if he had been negative, after this conversation he should realise his mistakes and should stop behaving in that fashion. However, if none of these happens and his negative behaviour continues as before then it is a confirmed case of his being a Negative Boss and would need to be dealt with in the following ways- i) Ensure that he is not able to hide your capabilities from the top management. Showcase your capabilities to all through participation in company-wide committees/forums, by holding company-wide lectures to present your successes and innovative methodologies, etc. ii) Expose his negative behaviour by retaining written records of his misdemeanours. He would insist on having his negative communication with you in verbal form, since he does not want any written records that can make him accountable. You should insist on written communication from him. If he communicates orally in a meeting with you then after the meeting send a mail to him summarising the contents of his discussions and your responses. iii) If he is sending you insulting mails then do not get provoked and send similar curt responses. Separate the content portion of the mail, which attacks some actions you may have taken, from the insulting tone of the mail. Respond with two separate mails to him. Respond objectively to each point in the content of8|P a g e Application of Select Tools of Psychology for Effective Project Management
  8. 8. Project Management National Conference 2011 PMI India the mail by justifying the reasons for your actions. Send another mail making it amply clear to him that his insulting language is unwarranted. iv) If you have realised that he is going to significantly harm your career then escalate his negative actions to HR before it is too late. You should mark copies to HR of the above responses you are sending to his insulting mails. You should also share information about all his prior negative actions for HR to take appropriate measures. HR can then apply TA/REBT methods to reform him. v) Build relations with your boss’ peers to be able to switch to their groups in the future, if things go totally out of control. Your participation in committees and conducting company-wide lectures would have already apprised them of your capabilities. 3.1.3 CASE STUDY A software services company had an incapable General Manager (GM). He had a more capable Manager “A” under him, and was feeling insecure from him. The GM decided to hire managers less capable than him. In his previous company, he had a reportee manager “B”. That company had outsourced a large 50- member software development project to a services company and “B” was coordinating this task. The GM hired “B” by wrongly informing the top management that “B” was actually “managing” that large team. A team was to be selected to visit a global software product giant to win projects. The GM decided to have “A” in the team since he had the capability to win the orders, but also tagged along his favourite “B”. The team ended up winning two pilot project orders from the customer. “A” was responsible for winning one of these orders and was made the project head for the pilot project with a 6-person team. The pilot was executed successfully, and the highly satisfied customer decided to assign a 3-year software development lab of 67 persons to them. The GM was now worried that if “A” starts handling such a big responsibility, “A” could become his competition. The GM informed the top management that the project was won by the “team” of “A” and “B”, and hence “B” is as much aware of the project as “A” is. Interestingly, when the team had visited the customer location, only “A” was in that project meeting since “B” was in a separate project meeting. Further, he convinced top management that “B” had “managed” large projects in his earlier company, and “A” did not have experience in handling such a large team. Hence, the GM convinced the top management to make “B” the project head of the lab.9|P a g e Application of Select Tools of Psychology for Effective Project Management
  9. 9. Project Management National Conference 2011 PMI India Since “B” had never managed a software project and had only been handling project coordination activities, he failed badly to deliver. After the first project delivery date, the customer team expressed their total disappointed with results and reduced the lab size from 67 to only 30. The GM now realised that they would be unable to deliver without involving “A” and could end up losing the lab totally. Hence, he asked “A” to rejoin the team, but report to “B”! “A” escalated the issue to top management with all the details and refused to be demoted to being just a manager for a project for which he was project head for the pilot. “A”, instead, offered to execute some critical modules of the projects within his team, outside of the lab. The mechanism worked to the good of all since “A” kept on delivering on critical issues and also kept customer tempers under control by effectively using the earlier good relations he had developed with the customer managers during the pilot execution. Solution “A” should have kept the company top management in loop about the ongoing pilot project and made them aware that he was leading the activity. He could have held company-wide sessions, inviting the top management, presenting details of his meetings with customer and progress on the ongoing pilot. If he had become visible then the GM would not have been able to blur his contributions once the pilot had been successfully completed. Further, “A” should have also developed close personal relationship with the customer managers, who would have then insisted on having “A” as the lab head. 4 NEGATIVE PEER MANAGERS 4.1 Identifying your Negative Peer Managers We suggest you to look for the following behaviour to identify if your peer manager is acting negatively- 1) He will try to bring you down in the eyes of the boss by talking negative about you at your back. However, he knows that the boss may not believe his adverse comments. Hence, he plays smart and fools the boss by first praising you by saying that you are capable; but would then also add that you are taking some wrong actions. He would then use the opportunity to repetitively talk negative about your actions. The boss does not realise that he is playing politics but thinks that since he was praising you, he is your well wisher and is “genuinely” raising some concerns. Hence, slowly boss starts gaining negative impression about you.10|P a g e Application of Select Tools of Psychology for Effective Project Management
  10. 10. Project Management National Conference 2011 PMI India 2) He may also get together with another negative manager and they separately backbite against you to the boss. Hence, the boss now gets “corroboration” of your wrong doings and hence does not need to investigate further. Falsehood becomes truth for the boss and your career gets impacted. 3) If he is working with you in a team project, he takes credit of successful tasks and blames the failed tasks on you. 4) He can go to any extent to cause harm to you and does not even care about company’s interest while acting negatively. 4.2 Dealing with “Negative Peer Manager” Some suggested ways to deal with your negative peer manager are- i) Avoid sharing information with him about your ongoing project progress and details about your team since he can potentially misuse any such information against you. He would always try to sweet talk you into revealing such details but be wise enough to know what his true intentions are. ii) If you become aware of his spreading canards about you to your boss then confront him in front of your boss with the actual facts and expose him. Convey to him firmly that he should not resort to such acts in the future. iii) If he is working with you as a peer in a large team project then keep your boss informed about clear division of activities between the two of you. Keep your boss aware of the progress of your tasks through written communications with copies to the peer manager/team. Hence, the peer manager will not be able to get opportunities to take credit of your successes and blame his failures on you. 4.3 CASE STUDY A startup was founded by a purely technical person as MD in US. He had never managed a team in his career. He ended up hiring incapable CTO and CFO under him in US.11|P a g e Application of Select Tools of Psychology for Effective Project Management
  11. 11. Project Management National Conference 2011 PMI India The company had been running a small India ODC. The MD decided to significantly expand the ODC and hence hired a senior capable GM as ODC head. His peers, the CFO and CTO in US, started feeling insecure due to the GM’s presence in India. They feared that as more responsibilities are transferred to ODC, the GM may end up hiring more capable CFO and CTO within India and all their responsibilities would be transferred. Hence both of them decided to collaborate to poison the MD against the ODC GM. The GM wanted to hire senior managers but noticed that current salary levels were much lower than market salaries. Hence he requested a salary survey. CFO struck down the idea by the reasoning that being a startup they should control costs by not spending on such surveys! Hence, the GM started hiring at industry salary-levels he was aware of. However, each time he wanted to give job offer to a capable manager, the CFO objected saying salary offer is “high” without any justification. Since The MD had no knowledge of salary-levels in India he fell back on the opinion of his CTO, who conveniently supported CFO’s viewpoint. Hence, no offers could be made. The CFO and CTO, instead, kept blaming lack of senior people on the GM’s inability to attract good talent. The CTO, cunningly, even directly hired some incapable managers in ODC just to prove that managers can be hired if effort is made! Left with the option to work with only a young team, GM groomed them to be project managers/leads. They started taking up higher responsibilities and were even able to interact directly with their US counterparts. Since the CTO could not raise other objections, he distorted this fact by informing the MD that the GM was interacting lesser with managers in HO and making lesser trips to US! The differences between the GM and US management became irreconcilable and the GM finally left. The US management team directly took control of the ODC. But all the earlier negative actions of the CTO and CFO started backfiring. Since the project management layer in ODC was now no longer given the management responsibilities, the US managers had to manage large distributed teams, and failed to deliver. Further, senior incapable persons hired directly by the CTO in the ODC ruined ongoing projects. Company deliverables were significantly impacted due to a weak ODC. Finally, within a year of the GM leaving, the global company underwent a fire sale by being sold at just 10% of its valuation a year back. Solution The GM should have insisted on having regular status review calls with the MD. In these discussions, the GM could have sensed any negative vibes coming from12|P a g e Application of Select Tools of Psychology for Effective Project Management
  12. 12. Project Management National Conference 2011 PMI India the MD. He should have then intelligently guessed that the MD is receiving false and negative feedback about him from the CTO and CFO. He should have countered this propaganda by objectively presenting the true facts to MD. Further, during his visits to US, he should have insisted on extended meetings with MD, CFO and CTO where he would have confronted them with the truth and exposed their nefarious designs to the MD. 5 REFERENCES 1. Damle, Pramod (2010) Application of Select Tools of Psychology for Effective Project Management, PMI India Conference 2010. 2. Berne, Eric (1964) Games People Play. New York: Grove Press. ISBN 0-14- 002768-8. 3. Berne, Eric (1975) A Laymans Guide to Psychiatry and Psychoanalysis, Grover Press; ISBN 0-394-17833-X 4. Berne, Eric (1975) What Do You Say After You Say Hello? ISBN 0-552- 09806-X. 5. Ellis, Albert (1962). Reason and emotion in psychotherapy. Secaucus, NJ: Citadel Press. 6. Froggatt, Wayne. (1990-2001). A brief introduction to Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy. (http://www.anapsys.co.uk/files/Brief%20Introduction %20to%20REBT.htm) 6 Author’s Profile13|P a g e Application of Select Tools of Psychology for Effective Project Management
  13. 13. Project Management National Conference 2011 PMI India Vimal Kumar Khanna is the Founder and Managing Director of “mCalibre Technologies”, a Mobile Software Product startup in New Delhi. He has over 26 years industry experience and has won multiple international honours. He is listed in “Marquis Who’s Who in the World”. He is also among 50 select experts in the world to be on “IEEE Communications” (pub. New York) Editorial Board (invited honorary position) since 1999. His multiple independently written papers have been published in leading international journals and conferences, including PMI Global Congress 2010 - Asia Pacific, Melbourne; PMI Asia Pacific e-Link; PMI India Conference 2010; etc.14|P a g e Application of Select Tools of Psychology for Effective Project Management

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