Managing Students, Managing Friends

2 November 2017
By Veronica Child
project management

As a project manager (PM) intern, one of my responsibilities has been to manage the progress of the DataSquad’s various projects. I make sure that squad members have what they need to start a project; that the project is broken down into small, doable tasks; that the ‘client’ is happy with the project’s outcome; that unexpected twists in progress or expectations are accounted for; that the completion of a project is documented and publicized (check out the other blog posts!); mainly everything you’d expect to make sure something that needs to be done gets done. For better or worse, what I’ve found to be the trickiest part of being a PM is the most integral and constant job duty: managing people – who are actually students, and some of which are actually my friends.

As I student, I get it. School is hard. There’s a lot of work. You’re busy and everyone else is busy. It’s easy to let things slip. But when that thing is your project, that’s when I come in. Through Asana, I can check in with DS members about their project progress. How’s it going? I see a deadline went by, any updates? Inquiring about their project status on Asana is great because it’s visible by everyone. Everyone can see that I checked in (once… twice…), and everyone can see how long it took them to respond (or not). And by everyone, I mainly mean our manager.

But wait- Is this kind of pressure ethical? These people are my friends; I sit with them in class. I’m their peer. But I’m also their PM. I’m there to help but also to get projects done. I don’t possess any managerial power over them (I don’t hire, pay, or fire anyone), but I do manage. Things get weirder when I’m with squad members in a friend setting and I know they’ve skipped a deadline or haven’t responded to my Asana message. Do I confront them about work then? I’d finally get an answer about why they’re “work-ghosting” me. But I’d like to believe in a work-life balance, and I can’t think of a faster way to kill the social mood than talking about work.

I find myself in these kind of settings more often than not. Despite the frequency of the problem, I don’t have a solution for it yet. I hope that this friend-manager limbo is unique to the college setting, where social, academic, and work all merge together. There’s something inside me though that’s telling me that’s not the case.