Prolonged Stress Within Projects

In a recent survey of 400 project managers undertaken by the PM Summit, 83% of those surveyed reported having have no formal training to manage stress or identify the warning signs amongst their team.  This is at a time when work stress levels are on a general incline and people are trying to find a work life balance.

These figures also backed up a research paper I presented in 2017 as part of an MSc in Project & Program Management so it came as no surprise that these figures where still so high.

In addition, the survey identified that respondents from the IT Sector appeared to suffer the highest levels of prolonged stress at 44%, whereas in the Construction sector it was slightly less at 39%, and not surprisingly in Operations Management it was down at a low of 5%.

40% suffered from prolonged stress

44% of IT respondents suffered from prolonged stress

39% of AEC respondents suffered from prolonged stress

5% of Operations and Logistics respondents suffered from prolonged stress

Those who identified themselves as suffering the most prolonged stress were within the age bracket of 35-55; whereas only 31% of over 55s indicated they suffer with prolonged stress. This can be for many reasons such as increased life and professional experiences etc. This suggests that it might be prudent when forming a project team to consider age diversity as well as more topical issues such as gender diversity.

Most Stressed Age Groups

43% of 35 - 55 year olds experienced prolonged stress

<31% of over 55 years olds experience prolonged stress

Most Stressful Phase

We can sometimes forget that those over 60 can bring a certain degree of calm in addition to their depth of experience to projects. As society strives for a more inclusive work environment we must be cognisant of the fact that inclusivity is not simply about gender, abilities, ethnicity etc. but also includes age.

Ageism perpetuates the exclusion of a certain sector of society that in the long term has the potential to harm us all. Stress is something that we will all encounter in life and a certain degree of it can be good. However, as the survey suggests, the younger we are the more we stress over things that we have no experience controlling, whereas the older we become the more experience we have of coming through the other side of such experiences.

I would advocate that any project team that does not include age-diverse members is losing out. Personally I have worked on teams where my direct reports were far younger than I and on teams where my teams members where of a more senior age than I. The ability to have someone on my team who had been through the project strifes before was invaluable to me as they also helped mentor younger team members.

The lifelong knowledge we gain throughout our career is only of benefit if we are provided the opportunity to impart that knowledge to others. Knowledge transfer is a particularly valuable intrinsic asset that no project or organisation should undervalue.

Stress has been around since we first walked on this earth and it will be here for as long as we occupy it. The sooner we realise that project management is not simply about equipping our project managers and teams with the tools to report on endless amount of data analytics and creating documents the better. It is time that the profession started taking mental health within the industry seriously and equipping project managers with the tools to identify and cope with mental health issues within projects. Simply stating, “It’s OK Not to be OK”, is all well and good but what do you say/do when someone replies, I am not OK…

To download the White Paper on the survey click HERE


About the survey

For the research, which was carried out in May/June 2018, 433 project management professionals responded to a request on LinkedIn to complete the survey. All responses were anonymous. Respondents, who were based in Ireland, were asked to report on their most recent 10 projects. The vast majority were male (78%) and the majority worked in medium (50-500 employees) or extra-large companies (5000+ employees). Roles represented included IT, AEC (architecture, engineering and construction), finance, operations & logistics, manufacturing and production, project and program management. Approximately 85% of respondents have formal education or training in project management.


About PM Summit

PM Summit is an annual event that takes place in Dublin, Ireland hosting a global community of project, program and portfolio managers from a diverse range of backgrounds and industries. The summit caters for project management professionals, regardless of whether they use Traditional, Lean Agile or combination of all or any approach to their projects.

The conference offers project management professionals a unique forum that facilitates the transfer of knowledge, the opportunity to explore new ideas, and quality peer to peer networking. The PM Summit is about the creation of a community of practice for project, program and portfolio management professionals.


About the author

Raymond is the CEO of PM Summit and Managing Director of PMIS Ltd. He has a MSc in Project & Program Management, Dip. Eng., Dip., ADR along with a number of other associated Certificates. He has been involved in the project environment since 1980 and has managed projects using the traditional Waterfall method and Agile. To connect with Raymond on LinkedIn simply send a request and if you wish to follow him on Twitter you may do so at @RaymondPoole1