I am extremely stressed out now a days due to a nagging client. Rather I am "Burn out" and dont feel like coming to office everyday to avoid any meeting, mail, confrontation with the client. He is an extremely petulant, pushy, impatient, micro manager who pokes his nose in almost every activity daily.
I work in an Indian company and working on a project for a US client. Now a days, I try to find out each and every way to avoid stress. Initially, I fought a lot with his humiliating micro-management; he did not trust my managerial skills. He wanted his say in almost all our daily activities. Fights got bitter some times and issues were escalated. But no escalation helped and he continued his way. Now a days, I have started ignoring or reacting on his demands and try to down-play him. Now the problem is: he is trying to pressurize my subordinates by directly contacting them on gtalk and pestering them all minute details. So my team is getting frustrated. I am getting apprehensive day-by-day that the team would lose its spirit and would want release from this project. I also feal that I'll succumb to this pressure and burst out vehemently, which I wish to avoid.
Till date, I tried to see this situation optimistically by consoling myself that "If I can handle such kind of customer successfully, I'd learn a lot about people management and customer expectation management. I can apply these learning going forward" . But this optimism is fast fading away.
So I want ranchers to share their bitter, similar experiences and how they handled such situation. I want to a different aspect or angle to this situation and see if I am doing something wrong. Any reply would be highly appreciated. [ March 18, 2008: Message edited by: Abha Ram ]
David is right on the mark. Any contact needs to be through you, not any of the team members. That will not relieve the stress burden on you -it will likely increase it-, but it's the right thing to do, both for the project and the team.
Originally posted by Ulf Dittmer: David is right on the mark. Any contact needs to be through you, not any of the team members. That will not relieve the stress burden on you -it will likely increase it-, but it's the right thing to do, both for the project and the team.
I have tried all sorts of things. I have escalated it up to my vice-precedent level about this. Nothing helps! He says that "Development team should not work in isolation. There should be a continuous discussion in between us and the team. It helps resoling issues". And during these discussions, he pesters the team for n number of things.
This should be done this way? Who is working on x component? He should work with y for this issue resolution. Tell me what happens in this code. Send me this code for review. Do a code walk-through for me. You should prioritize x before y. Why is this not solved yet? How competitive x resource is? blah blah blah....
He is one adamant guy who just doesn't listen to anybody. Being a client, my manager cannot press him too much. And I have to live with these issues and spend hours in useless meeting everyday.... [ March 18, 2008: Message edited by: Abha Ram ]
I think it is good that client is working with developers.
It's not. No reasonable client would have the inclination (and/or time) to do it, either, if he trusted the project leadership. But that -as Abha indicated- is not the case here. If Abha's company is interested in a healthy long-term relationship with this client, he and his VP will need to address this.
He will have more visibility on who is good and who is average/bad.
That is something for the service provider and their team leads to worry about and manage. The client should not be concerned with individual ability or performance, only with the team's performance. If individual team members are not up to snuff, their team manager will hopefully notice and take whatever corrective action is appropriate. [ March 18, 2008: Message edited by: Ulf Dittmer ]
Take a page from the Agile methodology. Set up a regular and frequent (but not TOO frequent) schedule to meet with the client and discuss progress and concerns and to answer the client's need for progress and concerns. (Agile's focus on small deliverables can also also help make this kind of client feel like they're getting something for their money).
I myself can either develop or talk, but not both. I don't care how many movies are made where some hacker develops the ultimate virus that will take out the enemy mothership while simultaneously carrying on a conversation with 3 other people, that's not me. I can't even endure IM. In fact, when I'm in the thick of things, twice-a-day email checking is about all I'm good for.
I believe very strongly in working with clients, but ultimately I feel I'm being paid to do a professional job, which implies that I should be granted the assumption of professional competence. When people feel like they can't trust me to do my work without continual oversight, my first reaction is to snap "if you're so good at it, you do it", and get progressively less polite from there up to and including finding another, more reasonable position.
Customer surveys are for companies who didn't pay proper attention to begin with.
My manager had a similar situation, in this case he got full support from his higher authorities. So I think it was easy for him to handle this situation and the client was not external to the company, he was from a different geography (US) though.
The things I noticed are as below:
1) He stopped all the developers from directly interacting with the client.Not to take up any task directly from the client which is not covered in the plan. 2)He made it clear that the project status can only be given once a week when all the stake holders are involved.
I feel the developers are the best people who can stop the client effectively. If they clearly tell the client to contact the manager then the client will surely come back to you.
Client can complain you about the developers not entertaining his demands and then you can put him back on track.
Originally posted by abha: now a days, I have started ignoring or reacting on his demands and try to down-play him.
This jumped out at me. The client is likely to feel less comfortable with this approach. He's going to feel ignored and like you aren't listening to him. Keep in mind that he is the client and he is the one who ultimately needs to be satisfied. Also, trying not to communicate with him encourages him to go to your developers.
So my team is getting frustrated. I am getting apprehensive day-by-day that the team would lose its spirit and would want release from this project
It's your job as manager to insulate your team from this.
I realize the last thing you want at this time is MORE communication, but consider a daily "stand up" style meeting. This is a short meeting (15 minutes or less) where people say what they are working on. This would give the client the confidence that things are progressing. One of the reasons for micro-management is the feeling that things aren't happening. I'm sure this is magnified by you both being far apart. Often there is a problem with timezones, but the client can find time to do this if he has time to use gtalk when you are in the office. It's also the opportunity to teach the client about tradeoffs. If you are working on X and he wants Y, let him know how it affects the schedule and ability to do X.
This guy will probably lose his head if the project fails. That's why he's being so annoying.
Actually i'm rooting for the project to fail just so that guy can lose his head.
Joined: Mar 18, 2008
Originally posted by Mike Isano: This guy will probably lose his head if the project fails. That's why he's being so annoying.
Actually i'm rooting for the project to fail just so that guy can lose his head.
Thats right Mike! I and my team has same feeling that his job is at stake. But the problem is we cannot faill the project/release as our promotions would be at stake! and if it fails, he'll take no responsibility and claim it on us. we are already oiling our guns and preparing fact sheets sighting such failure in near future
But my problem is : how to deal with such nagging people? The nagging had got so worse in the past that he wanted to know how much is spent by developer everyday and how much efforts (in terms of no. of hours) is remaining on the plan. I had to report him this in every day meeting and then he would ask me: this was supposed to be completed by y'day? why is it not compete? how many hours are remaining? why is developer blocked? which page/function/API is taking so much time? why do think it should take this much time? this should be straight-forward.... blah blah blah.... and I use to be so frustrated to answer these minute details everyday
I dont think this is project management. Is the project manager supposed to know these many details on day-to-day basis? i think its sheer wastage of time.
Joined: Mar 18, 2008
Originally posted by Tim Holloway: Take a page from the Agile methodology. Set up a regular and frequent (but not TOO frequent) schedule to meet with the client and discuss progress and concerns and to answer the client's need for progress and concerns. (Agile's focus on small deliverables can also also help make this kind of client feel like they're getting something for their money).
we already have daily meetings, weekly meeting, special progress meeting etc. He is one tough nut and not satisfied at all.
Joined: Mar 22, 2005
Originally posted by Abha Ram: this was supposed to be completed by y'day? why is it not compete? how many hours are remaining? why is developer blocked? why do think it should take this much time?
These are all relevant questions, to which the project manager or team lead (you in this case) needs to have answers.
I dont think this is project management. Is the project manager supposed to know these many details on day-to-day basis?
It is project management, and you do need to know those facts, especially if the project is late, or is in risk of being late. Risk management is part of project management, just like managing the client is part of it.