Project Practitioners > Where Is the Give?

Where Is the Give?

By Chris Cook, PMP

READ TIME: 5 minutes


The worst thing a project manager can do is deter a dedicated employee to quit eventually. You hire this bright-eyed and bushy-tailed team member. He or she will do anything you ask including work late, remedial tasks, and take notes.

You have the perfect team member. Before you know it, you start to see this person becoming standoffish and not as involved as before. You hear rumbles of disgruntled team members, or maybe you are oblivious altogether.

You went from having a dedicated team member to somebody looking elsewhere. This person does not have to be a newcomer either. There are plenty of examples of veterans at an organization that become frustrated with the new management. You come in with some fancy software and want to change their job description.

The veteran can also be disgruntled when a co-worker becomes the boss. After two decades of working together, one person gets a promotion and starts to play boss handing down mandates from on high. The problem arises when the veteran knows for a fact that the new boss never did these things when he or she was working on the crew.

But, now that this individual is management, he or she starts to act like a boss and say things that bosses say.

A take, take, take mentality can start to divide a team. The boss always wins. It is someone else’s fault. The delay is a vendor. The miscommunication is the other person. The profit always goes to the boss. Compromise is a curse word. You travel on a budget. Your per diem is low. You fly in at midnight, work the next day, then fly out at night. No incentives, just winning for senior management.

How to compromise:


  1. Listen

Often, throughout a conversation, the person is telling you their problem. It may not be direct and absolute but weed through the nuance to get to their point.

Say your project is $1,000. The owner comes to you last second and wants you to touch up a few spots of paint on the wall. It will take your crew 15 minutes to do what the owner wants. If you approve, the owner is happy and gets a better product. You might lose $30 on the time and materials. For 3% additional cost, you gain an owner that will send you work without needing approval.

If you fight about it and email back and forth, the owner starts to doubt your intentions. Sure, technically it is scope creep, but at that level, it is better to gain a partnership than make an extra $30. Listen to what the owner is asking for. It is a small action that pays large dividends down the road.


2. Be Clear

There are expectations in every position. No matter if you are a laborer, project manager, senior manager, or CEO, your job has expectations. Spell those out clearly with no interpretation.

Your contract states you work from home on Tuesdays and Fridays. Your boss comes to you and asks you to come in just for an hour or two on a Tuesday. Without drawing that line in the sand, before you know it, you are stuck at the office all day.

Part of compromising is being fair to all parties and respecting those lines that are clearly drawn. You start to scope creep on someone’s job description, and that frustration starts to boil. They have the same job title as the person next to them yet do double the work. Eventually, people start to talk and they find out the money is the same. All of a sudden, those roles are not clearly defined anymore leading to management ‘winning.’


3. Experiment

Take turns at each other’s approach. You have your idea of how something should be done. The team has their idea. Experiment to find the correct solution. Be objective in the trials and testing.

Be open to creativity. Sure, your way has worked in the past, but maybe someone else has an idea to improve upon it. If it does not work, the old way did not go anywhere. You can still use it after all.

Mix up teams. See who works well with each other. Sometimes, opposites attract while others repel. You do not know until you try.


4. Winning/Losing

Drop this attitude of right and wrong, win and lose, success and failure. This approach is not black and white. It is nuanced. A ‘win’ for your team is not a ‘loss’ for you. Again, it is a give and take.

You do not lose when a team member gets a promotion. You do not win because you receive the promotion. The team should get better with each movement. One pie does not exist for all. There are many pies. Bake one yourself.

Because you have two pies and everyone else has one does not mean you win. Do not keep score. The score will take care of itself. Follow the process.



People notice when you take, take, take. You are never wrong. You always have an answer. You will debate over minutiae. You make noise with your mouth a lot. These are signs of someone who takes a lot.

They spend your time talking about themselves. Then when you want to engage, they have other things to do. Listening is not a priority. They want to control the conversation and your time. If you are clear in your priorities, you will not allow this to happen.

Experiment with ways to deal with someone who takes all of the time. Develop a strategy and implement. Shut their game down before it starts. In turn, play with the idea of compromise. Who is more 50/50 and who is more 70/30?

With a word like compromise, people tend to think of winning and losing. That mindset derails the exact idea of compromise. Both parties ‘win’ in compromise, so that nullifies the concept.

Be a good human.

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