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Project StressIT Project Hostile E-Mails to Wide Distribution Lists

Previously I’ve offered insight and suggestions on the topic of reducing SAP project stress in a 2 part series:

Reduce SAP Project Stress: Part 1
http://www.r3now.com/reduce-sap-project-stress-part-1
 
Reduce SAP, ERP, or Technology Project Stress: Part 2
http://www.r3now.com/reduce-sap-project-stress-part-2-integration-points

But recently on LinkedIn, in the Project Management Group someone raised an interesting question that I have had to deal with on a few projects.  They asked:

“How do you respond to a senior project member who wrongly accuses you and have your bosses and team copied on email?”

Because I have been doing SAP projects since 1994, in highly charged corporate environments (including corporate politics) I have experienced this situation a few times.

Someone will pop off about something and they do not know what they are talking about.  They may be completely clueless or they may be wrong, but the message is inappropriate and it has now gone out to a number of individuals.  There are effective ways to respond to this situation.

1. DO NOT RESPOND IMMEDIATELY unless there is some absolute imperative that you must. Your best bet is to appear professional, let things cool, and get your own emotions in check so that you do not escalate this into a full blown war.

My personal experience has been that about 50% of the time this has happened to me, as long as I do not react in a rash manner, they are quickly resolved. By not responding immediately I have experienced the following corrections where I came out looking like a hero:

– On a few occasions some senior leaders on the client side (or the consulting side depending on who initiated the flame) have responded back to the e-mail initiator and corrected them. 

– On a few occasions the individual was known as a hot tempered instigator.  As a result of not getting the immediate response they wanted I had 2 people became irrational, try to escalate the situation, and exposed that they were completely nuts.  One of those two was fired shortly afterward.

2. WRITE the response e-mail immediately but DO NOT SEND IT! It gives you a chance to vent some of your frustrations and clarify some of your thoughts. Save the message, come back to it later (generally a day later), review it and re-write it in a much more dispassionate manner.

3. DEPERSONALIZE your response if you do send it. Avoid the use of any personal pronouns. Deal with the issue and not the person. If they continue to attack you and you continue to point back to the issue they look like a completely unprofessional idiot in front of everyone else.

4. ALWAYS be professional and try to empathize with the initiator even if you know they are vindictive or have some ulterior motive. In other words, you might say something like “I understand why this might be thought, but please consider…” Their response will speak volumes.

5. Your response to everyone should make it clear that you would like to schedule a meeting to review the issue face to face. The message should make it clear that there is no reason to take up everyone’s time and this can be resolved with the key stakeholders.

Your professional response speaks volumes. As a project manager you will gain everyone’s respect. Everyone who knows about it will realize that in dealing with you that even if they screw up or get a little over the line that you will deal with them in a professional manner as well. It helps to reduce project stress and defuse potentially ugly situations.

Some Past SAP Project Experiences with Improper E-Mails with Wide Distributions

While at Hitachi Consulting I was a mentor for one consultant who experienced a similar situation and gave all of the counsel listed here.  They followed these suggestions and let the situation die down.  The next day the client individual who had responded so improperly openly apologized and things were much smoother from then on.

I have seen this “provocative” type behavior from several consultants who were complete frauds!  They work to hide their own incompetence by sabotaging your ability to manage a project, or by creating unnecessary conflicts with other co-workers.  Because the SAP world is full of frauds it is one of the ways they create diversions from looking hard at their work product and experience.

I have seen this type of provocative behavior from client employees who were worried about layoffs and saw the attacks as a way to look important.  I have seen this type of behavior from client employees who lied about their own talents / skills / experience to get onto the SAP project.  Once they found out they were in over their heads they created havoc to distract from their lack of contribution.

The reasons really do not matter as much as how you, as a project leader or a project participant deal with the situation.  Handling stressful or highly charged situations is not easy but in this line of work you will have to deal with it.

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Contact me today through our site contact form ( http://www.r3now.com/contact ), phone, or e-mail.

Bill Wood
+1 (704) 905 – 5175
Bill Wood contact

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