Friday, February 8, 2019

Should you be formal or casual during meetings with management?

There is a PM I know called Bob. Bob has a great Project Manager’s position (PM) as the lead PM in his organization. He is the go-to PM on any critical or strategic project and is directly called upon by executive management. As a matter of fact, Bob is stopped in the hallway and called directly by executive management for needed information.
This poses only one dilemma for Bob, he is not entirely sure how to act. He is known to be a formal person during working hours and he feels comfortable doing that. However, some of the executives have spoken casually with him about sports, children and other non-work topics. So this has thrown Bob off a bit. But Bob has come up with his ideas of how to act at work.
For non-work topics, be casual

All work and no play makes for a dull place! Bob understands this and for those executive managers that have approached him on topics we’ll call casual, Bob engages in discussions other than business. Topics like sports, household repairs like painting a room, colleges children are applying to. These are acceptable topics to be casual on as long as the executive managers have begun the casual conversations. Bob also understands the “bartender” rule or topics NEVER to discuss; politics, religion or sex. These topics can lead to heated discussions and Bob does NOT want to be on the wrong end of these types of discussions. For example Bob is an avid football fan and follows a certain team. Bob is often approached by a certain C-level executive about the same team and they have a casual discussion about how well or how poorly that team played on Sunday. This is an acceptable and suitable casual discussion.

For work topics, be formal

Bob also reports to an executive manager that reports to that same C-level executive. While in a project meeting, Bob knows that he is reporting on business of the organization and keeps it formal. Sure, they can laugh about how someone got in a task early when that person suggested more days, but that is an exception, not the rule. When reporting on a project that the C-level executive is interested in, the football chatter does not enter the conversation. Sure, that C-level executive may speak to Bob AFTER the meeting about the performance of their team, but it is after the meeting, not during the meeting. Bob understands that the C-level executive has very limited time and is going from one meeting to another and must focus on topics of the meeting he/she is in at the time. Idle chatter is not the order of business at this meeting time.
As a matter of fact, that goes for any project member on Bob’s project, not just the C-level executive. During the project team meeting, Bob keeps it formal even if one of his team members starts to chatter about something else, bringing that member back to the order of business.
Do not mix these up

What Bob does as well is no to mix the two. He doesn’t want any executive or team member to think that Bob is not serious about his project work or PM responsibilities. That would be professional disaster for Bob’s career and could dampen any opportunity for advancement. Some of the other PMs and Bob meet outside the office and yes, sometimes they discuss business. But Bob knows to keep discussions in confidence and so do the other PMs Bob confides in. If Bob finds out that one PM does not keep discussions in confidence, Bob will no longer discuss business with that PM outside the office and depending on the circumstance, possibly at all. Bob has learned how to navigate the waters of formal and casual discussions with office workers, even at the C-level. Bob is a trusted PM and intends to keep it that way. 

      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.

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