Project managers: the most powerful, and yet under-appreciated, person in a creative agency. Here’s how to say thank you, show some appreciation, and stay on your PM’s good side while they’re herding all those “cats”.

The most powerful person in a creative agency is the often under-appreciated project manager. Project managers are assigning creative teams, managing schedules, and basically calling the shots when it comes to who’s doing what and when it’s due. If you want to impress one person in your office, start with the project manager
Get on her good side and you’ll be laughing: she’ll assign you to the fun projects, she’ll build extra time into the schedule for you, and she may even allocate you extra hours for “creative development” in her budget (i.e. beers at lunch).

Pissing off your project manager is the last thing you want to do unless you enjoy working on only your agency’s notorious worst clients, slaving away on weekends for “last minute deadlines”, and being harrassed about your timesheets every five minutes. Your project manager can make every day a living hell or a carnival fantasyland. It’s all up to you.

Here are 10 tips for staying on your project manager’s nice list.

10. Do not start off every meeting she schedules by asking “Is this going to be a long meeting?” 

As much as it may seem like project managers enjoy sitting in meetings all day for fun, they do not. They, like you, have a lot of other shit to do. Making her feel bad about the meeting she’s scheduled is not helping your case.

9. Be on time. 

Project managers are prompt by nature and they appreciate it when you are as well. If an appointment starts at 10:00, be there at 9:50. If your deadline is 4:00, have your work submitted a little bit earlier to make sure there’s room to go wrong. If a project manager sees you as someone who is on time and reliable, he will respect that.

8. Ask for her opinion. 

Project managers are often seen as uncreative time-management Nazis, but they are so much more than walking, talking, Excel files. Project managers are involved with so many projects and clients, they often have valuable creative insights or ideas and will jump at the chance to get involved beyond creating estimates and timelines. Making her part of the creative process will earn you a gazillion PM brownie points.

7. Hang out outside the office. 

Yes, project managers also eat lunch, drink alcohol, play basketball…if you’re doing extracurriculars with your team, invite the PM. Getting to know him as someone beyond the person who bitches at you to do your timesheets every Friday will help your relationship in a huge way.

6. Give her credit. 

Let’s say your team just landed a big client or killed it at a creative presentation. If you’re recognizing the contributions of everyone on the team, for God’s sake, mention your project manager. They are the most likely to be forgotten, in spite of most likely playing a huge behind-the-scenes role in the work, and they’re also the most likely to be bitter and make you work next weekend.

5. Don’t make him hunt you down. 

Let your PM know where you’re at with your assignments. If something is going to be delayed, give him lots of heads up. Make sure he knows the status of what you’re working on. Keeping him in the loop rather than forcing him to go all Mantracker on your ass makes his job easier, which in turn makes your life happier.

4. Read your @#$@ing emails. 

Once again, she’s not sending you these emails for her own good health. Many horrendous communication disasters can be averted by people actually reading their emails. Nothing makes the project manager prickle faster than hearing “yeah, I saw your email but I didn’t open it yet.”

3. Respond to calendar invites – but NOT with maybe. 

Honestly, I don’t know why ‘maybe’ is even an option when responding to a meeting request. Just commit one way or another.

2. Don’t leave her hanging. 

Project managers are typically a little type-A by nature. They like to know details and they like to be prepared for anything. The more information you can provide her about any project, the better. If you’re worried that you may be overcommunicating, chances are you’re doing a good job.

1. Say thank you. 

Project managers know they’re annoying at times and all that management can make him feel like a nagging mother-in-law. Just a simple ‘’thank you’ or a note of appreciation can make him feel like he doesn’t exist solely to rain on your parade. Thank him for setting up a presentation, sending around a meeting recap, or sourcing a new screen printer… say a genuine thank you from time to time. Then sit back and watch all the fun projects roll your way.


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