Reasons why project managers get stressed

In my opinion you are a saint if you tell me you are not a bit stressed.

Positive stress is actually good; it is the negative stress that is the problem.  Excessive stress is a guaranteed ticket to ill-health, and in extreme cases, even death.

Positive stress can help in:

  • Motivating a person
  • Facilitating hard work
  • Feeling of contentment for goals accomplished
  • Placing the environment in a positive mood - people and organizations that you interact with are left happy.

But what happens when you are negatively stressed? I am sure you do pass it around, without even knowing it! 

While there is no end to the list of what causes (negative) stress, here we focus on a few factors that affect a Project Manager. This list is just a start, to help bring about awareness and recognition of those factors that could be impacting you.  

The list is categorized under major headings for ease of understanding.


Stressful reasons


  • Your team is not co-operating.  You may be dealing with attitude problems of some team members.
  • Fear of delegation.  Here you worry that if you delegate (too much) some one else will pass you over in the organization. 
  • Cannot trust team members to complete the work satisfactorily.  Hence you are getting your hands dirty and resorting to micro-management.
  • Misunderstanding or even wrongly understanding colleagues at work.



  • Your boss is dumping more work than you can accomplish in the given time frame.  Too many things to do and too little time.
  • You hate your boss.
  • Boss lacks capability - you know more than the boss.



  • New to the domain you are managing; so you feel it hard to cope up with what is happening.
  • Not enough resources (such as time, money, people, equipment, etc.) on hand for you to get the job done.
  • Project not progressing as per plan.
  • Having to handle difficult stakeholders, including clients, sponsors, team members, etc.
  • New project, new client and working with a new team.
  • New to project management, and hence, feeling overwhelmed.
  • Difficult to understand the clients (ever changing) needs.



  • Not having (enough) room to grow.  You have more capability than your job expects of you, and you are forced to be mediocre at the workplace.
  • Competing against another person; this is a typical rat race.
  • Constrained to do the job even if you don't like. This may be due to obligations that you have elsewhere, for example, financial commitments on the personal front, etc.
  • Company's goals not inline with or similar to your own personal goals (or maybe even conflicting).  This constant mismatch causes lots of stress. 
  • You are unable to be your best and do your best.  You are frustrated that you are wasting yourself here.
  • Fear of change, especially from that which you are already comfortable with.
  • No freedom to make decisions.  May be you are in a traditional command-and-control style of organization.
  • Upper management believes project management is an overhead that they can live without; consequently you get very little respect. .
  • Nothing you do appears important in the organization.
  • Lack of job rotation leading to boredom from doing the same job repeatedly.
  • Lack of (billable) projects at workplace with no certainty going forward.
  • Skill set obsolescence - you have done the same stuff for far too long and haven't quite picked up other useful skills in the marketplace.



  • Family, friends and other social pressures being carried over to the work environment.
  • Not prepared to handle unexpected things at your workplace, in your life, or  in other environments.
  • Health issues holding you back at work.

While these are known issues, we will discuss how to handle these in a future post.  If you have something to add, just share your experience below.


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