Project managers can feel underappreciated, overworked, or lacking in autonomy - and want to leave.
Retention

The top reasons why IT Project Managers leave

According to recent studies, as many as three-quarters of IT project managers are considering leaving their job. Although this phenomenon has become relatively commonplace (we're going through what many have called "The Great Resignation", an economic trend where people have resigned from their jobs in search of better opportunities), it's essential to understand what the factors driving IT project managers to leave are - and see what can be done about it.

Why do people leave their project management jobs?

There are many reasons behind the decision to leave a job. In many cases, a person might feel underappreciated, or that they are not being paid enough. In some cases, project managers quit because they have too many responsibilities - and others, too few. The scenario can be quite complex, so let's go through the reasons in more detail.

1. Project Managers are not being challenged

Everyone wants to advance their career and improve their skills. Project managers, in particular, need to know they are working on projects that can allow them to master increasingly complex tasks. If everything's made easy, it's inevitable to start wondering about more exciting endeavors elsewhere. If you want to ensure your project management team remains inspired, give them a chance to access growth opportunities such as incorporating new skills and building confidence.

2. The work is too repetitive or skills are unutilized

Although 'practice makes perfect', repetitive work has a negative side to it, too. In fact, repetitive tasks have been linked to mental strain, increased boredom, stress, and burnout. If you see yourself doing the same tasks over and over, day after day, you won't feel particularly motivated. 

This repetition is particularly frustrating when a project professional feels their wider skills are being left underutilized. Always make sure you determine what job expectations are, identify learning opportunities, and consider the emotional effects that make people feel undervalued.

3. They're not being paid enough

An obvious one to most! In many cases, the responsibilities of a project manager increase, but they don’t believe they’ve received the corresponding salary increase. In cases where increasing a salary is not an option, a company can still provide its employees with other benefits and perks to make them feel more satisfied with their situation.

4. The project they're working on has been canceled

The reality of business is that many efforts don't result in project delivery and, as a project manager, you'll probably feel at least partially responsible. When this happens, it's vital to make the time to discuss the reasons behind the decision to cancel a project and ensure project managers have everything they need to make their next project a success.

5. They don't see a future at the company

A good company values project management and understands everyone needs to be able to access career development. Ultimately, if a team member feels they are underappreciated (whether they are working on a successful project or not), they will want to move on. This is something senior management is trying to get right all over the world. To deal with someone who is considering leaving project management due to a lack of opportunities, make sure you let team members see how they fit the company's long-term plans and why their professional development matters.

6. They're not given enough responsibility

Resource management can be challenging for anyone, and sometimes managers working on multiple projects fail to see that some people are being underutilized. At the same time, it's easy for any project manager to fall into the responsibility trap, where you're pushed to do as many things as possible. Make sure you identify where your employees are spending your time in the context of the company's goals and priorities (you can do this by capturing, for example, someone's roles and responsibilities).

7. They're not given enough autonomy

If project managers do not have the freedom to act independently or make their own decisions, they will (correctly) feel like they lack autonomy. Job autonomy is essential for a project team and must be considered when planning for a project's success. Employees that can make their own choices tend to be happier, more productive, and more committed. And if they know their role is meaningful, they will want to stay.

8. They're not being recognized for their hard work

About 42% of project managers feel their organizations don't value their job. When operating within a large and complex project, it is often difficult to carve out personal goals and success criteria. In some cases, not having a good project plan can also make it challenging to track progress and feel satisfaction once all the tasks are completed. If you want people to start, always give them the recognition they deserve for their effort.

9. They're just plain burned out

A job where you have to experience any of the issues listed above can ultimately lead to burnout, which can have serious negative effects on mental and physical health. Burnout is just one of the reasons project managers quit and something that only worsens if the underlying issues are not dealt with.

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How to deal with IT Project Managers leaving: A practical tip

To truly empathize with your departing IT Project Managers and avoid losing more, one of the best things you can do is to encourage them to share details about their day-to-day activities. This will help you understand their perspective and evaluate whether, for example, their work has become too repetitive and has parts that can be automated.

The best case scenario is that, as an employer, you learn from the exercise, change the project manager’s experience, and improve their work life. But if things don’t go as planned, you will at least have all the information ready to learn for when a new replacement joins! 

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