Project Manager Stockholm Syndrom

Project Manager Stockholm Syndrom

In 1973, a holdup in a Stockholm bank took an unexpected turn for the worst and an escaped inmate ended up taking three women and one man hostage. Despite their fear and suffering, the victims ended up bonding with their hostage-taker during the six days they were held. Once released, the hostages stood in front of their captor to protect him. One even embarked on a love affair with him. This event led to the term “Stockholm Syndrome.”


When a project takes project managers hostage…


In recent weeks, I’ve been working on a project audit for a major company. Audits are often a final resort for organizations whose projects are not going well and who need to find a way to get back on track. One of the things I noticed during this audit (and in several previous audits) is that the project manager had completely lost perspective and the ability to see things clearly.


In fact, the project manager had become the project. He had been taken hostage by it! These are the telltale symptoms:


1.     The project manager becomes very aggressive when the project is criticized even slightly.

2.     The project manager takes total responsibility for the project’s problems and refuses to seek assistance.

3.     An impossible assumption is made: The project is facing huge problems, but we’ll get past them with just a little more time. The project manager has lost the ability to see the situation for what it is and is living in a world of fantasy.

4.     The project manager suffers from stress-related problems, including anxiety and sleep disruption.

5.     Relationships between team members deteriorate and working ceases to be enjoyable.


How does a project manager get to this point?


-         Project too complex for the project manager’s experience.

-         Lack of support from management. No decisions are made and the situation is allowed to spiral out of control. There is no concrete vision for the project.

-         Poor working relationships within the project. Conflicts were not dealt with in a timely matter and things have escalated to the point of putting the project at risk.


Once a project manager is struck with Stockholm syndrome, it’s too late. The only way to get the project back on track is to change project managers.


How to prevent Stockholm syndrome?


-         Project managers should try not to lose perspective, especially on their own actions.

-         Project managers should have a clear vision of the project. Don’t kid yourself; if your project is in the red, actions need to be taken. Be proactive.

-         Project managers should seek assistance and share your problems with all their levers (project office, coach, executives, etc.)


Project Manager Stockholm Syndrom


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