unhappy project manager


I've been a project manager in a mid-sized firm for the past 1 1/2 years. Being a PM, my day is filled with back to back meetings, constantly catching up on emails, writing proposals, charting staffing schedules, calculating fee & burn rate, and reviewing/redlining plans. I am getting the work done with my team and my boss is satisfied. But I am stressed out and do not enjoy this work. I found the work of being a project architect; designing, solving problems, drafting, and being deeply involved in my projects much more satisfying. 

I am not sure if I should look for another firm where I can be both a PM & PA or to tell my boss that I want to be a PA and not manage. Not sure how that will reflect in my current and future salary. I am sure there are others who had and overcome similar experiences. I would like to know if they eventually learned to get used to the work of a PM or were able to find an alternative way to continue their growth in the profession. 

Jan 17, 21 9:18 pm
liberty bell

I have a coworker who decided they didn’t enjoy project management and do doesn’t do it anymore. They are a very good designer and spends their day basically drawing. I’m insanely jealous! I hate PMing, which I’ve been doing on a large project for the last year. 

I’m fine PMing small projects, though, because I get to do a lot of drawing in relation to how much email/fee planning/hours projections etc I have to do.

Jan 17, 21 10:40 pm  · 
5  · 

Thanks I can totally relate. I will need to read some PM self help books or at least watch some related youtube videos.

1  · 

Peter principle is a concept where competent people keep getting promoted until they reach a position of incompetence. 

Nowhere is this more obvious than becoming a Project Manager in Architecture. Junior designer, senior designer, OMG  I'm a Project Architect!!! and then one day you wake up as a PM and what the hell just happened. 

It's really not for everyone. If you are craving to be a combo PA/PM then your heart is really not in it. At PM level you should be craving a leadership role where you are super comfortable with all design duties being delegated down. You are still in charge of design (if you are doing it right), but you are no longer telling a junior how a basic parapet detail works. Or have to decide if bone white or Chantilly lace go better with blackened steel trim. You have people who take care of that and report to you. Plu$ you get paid accordingly for doing this. 

I have seen so many Peters and Petras faceplant once getting to the PM level. Like literally trying to take over certain PA duties while having no idea what is written in the design contract. It ends badly most of the time.

Becoming a PM is not a linear progression. It's a high level side step. It's all about saying goodbye to your copy of Fountainhead and going balls deep into your copy of Atlas Shrugged. 

But there is no shame in taking a step back. I've seen people do it and it worked out for them just fine. Yes. we all silently judge you for it, but all you wanted to do was to make trace paper doodles, so why should you care what the accountant wrote about you in the bathroom stall, Matthew. 

Jan 18, 21 12:34 am  · 
7  · 

lol thanks for your feedback. I don't think I was properly trained for the PM role but suddenly promoted to it. That is probably the root reason why I am still having difficulties transitioning and thus not enjoying it. I find it too difficult letting go of the work. Also, I'm not a natural PM . Like those guys/gals who always has something to say at the end of the staff meetings.


I also have a hard time letting go of the work. I want to understand all of the work myself, and it feels like the only way I can do that is to DO the work myself. I guess it's some control freak anal-retentive thing that I'm terrible at delegating.

1  · 

great reply rusty. when you see a PM sketching shit on trace paper, you know things are aobut to get fucked.


Donna, it's about putting other people out in front of you, which requires a lot of trust, a lot of learning what those other people are capable of, and making sure you're prioritizing your time around making them successful at the job you need them to do. sort of like teaching a little kid how to cook. they're going to leave you a mess to clean up, but in the long run, you're eventually going to be dead and they're eventually going to be the PA/ PM. you're at place now where you've learned what needs to happen, you need to focus on passing that on.

1  · 

Very simple. Ask your boss(s) to put you back into the design or working drawing department. If they do not or you find out that you no longer like it, move somewhere else.

Jan 18, 21 10:30 am  · 

unfortunately i've seen those people get "boxed" into being drafting and detailing work horses. it can be a cruel profession.


You may be in a badly run firm. Technical work shouldn't be a box for people. A well-organized firm will have technical people who operate and get paid at a senior level.

3  · 

mtdew, he's asking to be boxed in the role he feel comfortable in. there's nothing wrong with that.  he will preform best in the role he preforms best in.


on that above note, any design build firm would be glad to have someone with design and pm experience doing design work.  They also pay better.  

Jan 18, 21 11:04 am  · 
2  · 

that's an interesting option that I have not considered.


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