Saturday, April 6, 2013

What do you do with an overbearing project team member?

You know what they look like, we all do. At first, their smile is disarming and almost inviting. However within a meeting, you and the project team knows that this person is concerned about their agenda and only their agenda. No one else’s task, issue, or project report matters or should be considered more important than theirs. They attempt to take over the meeting quickly and they enjoy knowing that everyone on the team knows who runs the show. This person may even be the project sponsor or the client, which makes the task of trying to curb their overbearing nature that more difficult. So, what do you do? How do you confront this person? And make no mistake about it; you have to confront this person.
First, make sure that the person is truly overbearing
We sometimes mistake gushing enthusiasm with overbearance. If a team member is overly excited or has much to say, even when it is not their place to speak, then you can take that person aside and with gracious firmness, communicate your concerns with his “rational exuberance.” However, to be sure of the person’s intentions, watch and check with the other project team members.  Make sure that they feel that their voices, when called upon, are heard. If they tell you that they feel that they are being neglected, then you must take the next step and speak with the “excited” member with the gracious firmness I mentioned previously. What I mean by gracious firmness is telling the person that although you appreciate their excitement, you feel that the other members feel left out or not part of the team.
If the member continues to be overbearing
Hopefully, the discussion you have with this member will be enough. If it is not, you can try to intercede during meetings to allow another team member to be heard or to finish their thoughts. As the project manager, it is your duty to ensure that the meeting runs smoothly and that everyone that has a report to the project is heard. You can also ask for help from one or two other team members. When they are reporting their progress, they can speak at a higher tone when this overbearing person speaks up so as to finish their sentences or statements. If these tactics do not work, then you may have to take the person aside once again and, with more firmness, restate that he or she is becoming overbearing during project meetings. Let them know that although they are a valued member of the team, their attitude is becoming intolerable and their contribution to the team is being ignored.
If the person does not change their attitude, then you must speak to that person’s manager and possibly request a replacement. However, be prepared for the manager to take your request badly. In all of this process, you should keep your manager apprised of what you have done and the success you have achieved. Hopefully, you will not need to bring your manager into a meeting with the manager of the overbearing team member. This should resolve one way or another, the overbearing members’ attitude. What this also does is provide you with more tools in your managerial toolbox. This specific type of incident is not one that any of us want to confront. Realistically though, a project manager must realize that not all team members may have the best interest of the project in mind.

I am open to discussion at any time on these blogs or anything else related to project management you would like to explore. If you would like to comment about this blog, please do so by posting on this blog or by responding in an email at Benny A. Recine.You may inspire a blog article. I look forward to your comments.


  1. Great post Benny. I get this question alot and will refer to it in my programmes. Difficult and sensitive. I think your advice is right on. Thanks.

  2. When the overbearing person is the project manager, it's extra difficult. They often have limited knowledge of the subject matter (they aren't typically expected to have it either) but attempt to shape the technical aspects of the solution and cause friction with the expert team participants.

    1. This. More often than not the PM is the one in the way and interjecting themselves into topics they have no expertise on. You're a PROJECT manager, not a PEOPLE manager. Schedule the meetings, track the progress, fill out your TPS reports and let people that know what they're doing do the actual work.

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