Most people are awesome – but every once in a while you run into some crazy. This story is about how one person can make life hell for so many.
Everyone thinks they’ve worked with a project manager with insane expectations, right? Well, we actually have.
Remember that story I shared a few months back about the project with the Christmas cyberattack? Well, that story didn’t get better right away.
After we finished the rewrite of the old application, our clients at Acme Hospital decided they wanted to hire a liaison to manage projects like ours. Someone with the background to work through technical concerns should anything like a cyberattack happen again.
As we were their software vendor, they asked for our feedback on potential candidates and we were more than happy to oblige. After all, this would be our point of contact moving forward, so chemistry and professional capabilities were priorities.
Enter Phillip – a candidate with a great resume and no apparent red flags. After going through multiple candidates, Acme narrowed it down to him and we signed off.
Unfortunately, interviews can’t catch everything.
Phillip came on as the technical project manager, and things got stressful right away. He started throwing his weight around a little bit at first and then more pointedly. Everything had to go through him.
We were working hard towards the next launch but were getting dragged down by constant nagging from Phillip. Despite being brand new to the project, he was acting like this was his circus and we were his monkeys.
This was an early indicator that things were not going to go well.
Progress slowed over questions about the budget (which had already been determined and agreed upon), which when answered led to further questioning.
Even worse, Phillip wasn’t one to try and solve these ‘concerns’ professionally or respectfully, but would rather wait until he had an audience. One flashpoint was when he made a royal decree that he “expects a 25% discount” for this project. When asked what was being changed, he was clearly throwing out a number with no understanding of the scope.
As a team, we escalated this issue to Phillip’s superiors because it was reflecting poorly on us AND the company, and quite frankly made us uncomfortable moving forward. Luckily for us, they had noticed this too, and tried to rein him in.
Unfortunately, their feedback to him did not go the way we had hoped.
Instead of working to mend the relationship, Phillip saw this as an attempt by us to bypass him. Now, he wanted to see us fail. He would be openly disrespectful on calls. We were walking on eggshells every week. This went on for a solid 3 months – some weeks worse than others.
But we persevered. Even with all the stress, we had a very successful launch. The team and I managed to pull off one of our biggest wins, and the success was undeniable.
With that success, it was time to renegotiate. Rajiv set up a one-on-one with Phillip to try and reconcile the issues so we didn’t have to live with stress every day. Not to be. It essentially devolved into a shouting match that ended in Phillip telling Rajiv to toe the line or be fired.
So it was us or him. This threat was enough for Rajiv to escalate to the stakeholders the toxicity of the relationship. While they sympathized, we had no idea if anything would be done since we were basically a vendor complaining about what an employee said.
Luckily for everyone, Phillip took care of that himself.
One fine day, the stakeholders told us that Phillip would not be joining us anymore.
Apparently, their internal attempts to talk to him had resulted in him having a meltdown in front of HR, and he stormed out of a meeting. He was already on notice and this outburst had got him fired. Good thing too because that situation was definitely unsustainable.
Our credibility was high after being proved right and on the back of two successful launches. We have been working with Acme Hospital for years.
What’s there to learn here? No matter what the external circumstances – deliver to the best of your ability, and hold on to your self-respect while keeping your promises. Also, never underestimate the value of communicating professionally even when personally attacked.
Story by Jesus Fernandez, Senior Developer @ Informulate
(Client Names Changed for Privacy)