Project Management: Motivating Reluctant Workers


New team managers or supervisors often face challenges in managing the project’s staff and reaching targets or goals of the project on time within the set budget. Team managers must, therefore, possess certain necessary skills and assume specific responsibilities to ensure successful implementation of the project. The project managers should be able to motivate and sustain the project staff. In any project, the team members often look to the project manager for a solution to a problem or a conflict, coordination of activities, and direction during project implementation. This is practically achievable through effective communication between the team members and the team leader. A good team manager should be flexible, possess a number of essential skills, and able to cope with different situations, including conflicts, doubt, or uncertainty.

Core Skills in the Case of Reluctant Workers

In the case of reluctant workers, the new project manager, Tim Aston, despite being ambitious, faced many obstacles in implementing the project. This forced him to consult the project director, Phil Davies. The attribute to this can be much to lack of necessary skills from both the project manager and the senior executives of the company. Staff motivation is low as most team members leave work early and are reluctant to attend team meetings in the morning. Additionally, two of his team members could not reschedule their vacation to participate in a test.

This indicates that Tim lacks staff motivation skills. Project managers must be able to motivate and sustain their staff members. He/she should be able to address problems facing the team as well as be knowledgeable in all the aspects of the team members and the project. In this way, he/she can motivate people towards the implementation of the project. Davies advice Tim to understand the project staff and learn human behavior and interests in order to effectively motivate his team, which has an average age of forty-six.

Another core skill apparent in the case is management support building skills (Kerzner, 2001, p. 242). It is important that project managers understand the power systems within an organization in order to establish favorable relationships with senior executives. Tim, apparently, did not establish good working relationships with senior management. This explains his failure to convince the account’s boss to allow one of his employees to join the project team. Additionally, Tim lacks organizational skills regarding how the organization works and how he can integrate the team members, who are much older, into an effective project team. He does not understand their social responsibilities and interests, which, as Davies explains, is essential in staff motivation.

Other skills essential to any project manager or supervisor include conflict management. Such skills enable the manager to avoid conflicts that may affect the performance of the project. The manager should also have planning skills to evaluate resource requirements and administrative support needed before the commencement of the project (Kerzner, 2001, p. 267). A project manager also requires technical skills in order to understand the technical and administrative needs of the project.

In addition, the project manager needs entrepreneurial skills to implement programs aimed at customer satisfaction and organizational growth. Administrative skills such as staffing, budgeting, and scheduling requirements of the project are also essential skills in project management. A project manager should also budget, schedule activities, and allocate resources effectively to meet the project objectives. They must also be able to cope with different situations or challenges to ensure the success of the project.

Tim Aston’s Effectiveness

In project management, and effective team manager must possess many and varied skills encompassing the various aspects of human personality for the successful implementation of the project. These skills are essential in coordinating the human resource towards achieving the project goals. According to Gray and Larson (1997, p. 162), “project managers must have the ability to motivate and sustain their staff.” Tim’s staff is, evidently, unmotivated. They leave work for their homes early with no one working overtime, others walk out of afternoon team meetings on flimsy grounds, and no one arrives early for the morning meetings of the team. Two of Tim’s team members could not reschedule their vacations to attend a test undertaken by the management of the customer’s department.

Team members expect their supervisors to solve problems within the team, understand their interests, and help remove obstacles that may face the project (Cleland, 1994, p. 311). In this way, the project manager not only motivates his/her staff but also ensures the commitment of the project staff to the project tasks. Tim, apparently, did not value the social responsibility and interests of his team members, the majority of whom were middle-aged, such as working with fatherless children in the community or fishing as a hobby. As a result, he experienced difficulties motivating his staff. There are many ways a project manager can motivate the team members. He/she should be knowledgeable in all his/her activities with team members and with the project itself. Additionally, being considerate and respectful to team members are essential skills in project management.

Concerning the senior executives of the company, Tim lacked management support-building skills. Most projects rely on staff from different departments of the organization. To obtain this human resource, it is important that project managers understand the power systems within an organization and establish favorable relationships with the senior executives. Tim failed to connect the project goals to the larger goals of the organization.

The accounts boss does not understand the significance of the project to the organization and even refuses to release one of his staff members to join the project team on Tim’s request. It is important that team managers develop a connection between the goals of their project and the goals of the departments that might offer support. Tim should have aimed at developing project goals that involve departmental cooperation to obtain support from the departmental managers.

Understanding the organizational structure and being knowledgeable of the interests and values of the team members is also essential in project management. It demands a sufficient understanding of how the organization works. In addition, the project manager should understand the social responsibilities and skills of his/her team members in order to integrate and motivate the team members into an effective team. Tim, apparently, does not understand the value of social activities and interests such as visitation to fatherless children or fishing as part of recreation, activities, which his team members value so much. As a result, the level of communication with his team is low, and team members prefer to attend these events to team meetings or scheduled tests.

Tim’s Support Needs from the Organization

Tim’s team members appear unmotivated and uncommitted towards the implementation of the project. In an effort to keep the project on course, Tim sought interested people from other departments to join the project team. However, due to low interdepartmental cooperation in the company, he failed to get an enthusiastic and competent individual to join the project. This shows Tim’s need for both technical support and motivation to promote interest in the project. The team members do not communicate their ideas openly, sentiments, or opinions to the team leader, making it difficult for Tim to motivate them.

A team manager should be honest, straightforward, and conversant with the team members and the project. However, Tim, being new in the company, seemed not to understand the people he worked with, particularly his team members. This, coupled with the fact that the team members are older than him, made it difficult to motivate and improve communication to meet the expected performance. Tim, therefore, needed support from the organization to motivate his team through team building activities that integrate the social interests and activities that appeal to the age group of his team members.

Tim also needed technical support from the organization to implement the project. Projects require diverse skills and, therefore, need people from various departments. The company should promote interdepartmental cooperation in project management. In this way, the company may divert the necessary resources, including human resources, towards the implementation of the project. Tim received less technical support as the boss of the account refused to let one of his staff members to join the project team. The human resources allocated to Tim’s project team were insufficient, forcing him to seek additional resources to implement the project effectively.


In the case of reluctant workers, Tim faces a challenge in motivating his project staff. There are many different ways, both direct and subtle, that a team manager can motivate his/her, project staff. Management by example (MBE) is one way of motivating project personnel to meet the objectives of the project (Galens, & Adams, 2007, p. 43). The team manager should, therefore, be involved directly in the project, honest and knowledgeable about the project and the interests and values of the t staff. Tim should explore ways of integrating the interests of the team members into group activities and team building. This will enhance communication between him and his project staff to reduce stress and motivate them. A good project manager should encourage hard work and fun to improve the performance of the employee.

Tim can also motivate his project team by being considerate and respectful to his staff, whose members are much older than he is. The team members require time and due consideration to motivate them. Additionally, by appreciating the team member’s efforts, through a personal word or an email, the manager would motivate the project staff. Project managers should also be direct and open when dealing with problems affecting the team. In the case of members leaving afternoon meetings earlier and failing to attend morning team meetings, Tim should confidently define the performance expectations of each team member in writing and seek their approval.

In relation to the senior executives of the company, support to project managers is essential in project implementation. Projects involve diverse input of resources and interdepartmental cooperation. Tim lacked an experienced, talented, and enthusiastic person in his project team. Tim also, being new in the company, did not understand how the organization works and therefore needed support from experienced members to implement the project effectively. The senior executive should provide technical support by allocating more resources to the project, including human resources, to meet the objectives of the project.

Reference List

Cleland, I. (1994). Project Management, Strategic Design, and Implementation. New York: McGraw-Hill Inc.

Galens, J., & Adams, K. (2007). Effective Group Decisions: Theory and Practice. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Gray, F., & Larson, E. (1997). Project Management: The Managerial Process. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Kerzner, H. (2001). Project Management: A systems Approach to Planning, Scheduling and Controlling. New York: John Wiley Publishers.