Studies Show Better Communications Helps With Project Manager Stress

Project manager stress is simply unavoidable with so many moving parts, but the unknown that comes with those moving parts is also a reason many people get into the field.

According to one study, this stress in project management is increased when teams are remote, citing virtual team growth and impacts of cross-cultural influences that occur with that growth as two of the top causes of PM stress.

As all PMs know, the fear of miscommunication grows naturally with team size, and, as data suggests that about 90% of most PM jobs are spent communicating, polishing those communication skills helps limit said stress. Ultimately, bettering communication will have a positive snowball effect on a PM’s productivity. 

Using Lasswell’s Model Of Communication To Deal With Project Manager Stress

In Lasswell’s Model of Communication, he defines communication itself as “who says what to whom in what channel with what effect” and dissecting each part of that definition is a great way to increase your communication skills.

The Who

Project managers cite “helping people” as one of the main reasons for choosing the career path, and with an expected 33% growth in project-oriented roles by 2027, simply by being available to fill those jobs is already helping those employers.

Project managers should convey to their teams, no matter how digital or large, that they do what they do because they want to help their team achieve their goals. Naturally team members will want to make themselves more available for communication (and work harder, too).

The Whom

Studies repeatedly show that a diverse and inclusive workforce is a more successful one, but the more diverse a PMs team is, the more lines there are to toe in regards to communication.

Women, for instance, account for 49% of the U.S. workforce, but less than 25% of C-suite jobs in Fortune 500 companies, with minority men and women having even less representation in those positions (~ 14%). A 2020 survey found that, among female project managers, nearly two-thirds of female project managers reported feeling stressed at work, either by work/life balance issues or by feeling they had too much to do.

Communicating with a team in ways that empower them all equally and respect all of their individual beliefs can be difficult but will result in a more responsive (and more productive) team. Research shows that inclusive teams make better business decisions up to 87% of the time.

The Channel

Even before COVID-19 made remote work a necessity, a survey by The Access Group concluded that 38% of PMs said “poor visibility of available resources” was the biggest challenge they faced when improving their project management skills.

Now, with many companies going digital, and many utilizing third-party project management services, communication channels are changing and each needs to be mastered to ensure streamlined transmissions of information.

According to the Harvard Business Review, IT failures cost the U.S. economy between $50 billion and $150 billion per year, so choosing the right channels AND having good backups are as important as the communication itself.

The Effect On Project Manager Stress

The Who, The Whom, and The Channel all tie in to the effect a given message has on its success (or effect), so tying those things in together fluidly is a skill that needs mastered to maximize communication and minimize your own stress levels.

With more than 80% of high-cost projects being led by certified PMs in 2019 (opposed to executives/owners) and the PM industry projected to grow by $6.6 trillion this decade, there is plenty of incentive to continue being a project manager.

If the stress levels are the only thing making project managers question a future in the industry, the focus on improving communication in the digital era should ease the pressure.

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