What to do when...there are more senior people in a project team

Have you ever worked on a project team?

You get asked to join/help out on a project with a variety of people to launch a new product / solve a business problem / do something out of the everyday?

It can seem either exciting or daunting, depending on your experience, and either a great break from your every day role or an extra workload that you don't really need?

Then there's the issue about how to communicate with people you may or may not know!

How ever you approach it - projects can be an opportunity to show your abilities and capability to others outside of your immediate team. And let you be part of something that makes a wider contribution than you can in your everyday role.

And it can give you the opportunity to work with a variety of people - including some who are more senior in your organization.

No matter how a project team is configured or if you have been given tasks that interact with someone more senior than you on a daily basis; someone more senior than you is, well, still more senior than you.

It shouldn't matter.

But to some people it does.

Some people are very conscious about hierarchies and will not necessarily see themselves as equal team members.

Rather they'll expect to be respected for their position, expertise or skills (or all three!)

If you show respect to all team members - you won't offend anyone - no matter how they see their position in a team.

Some ways of doing this with each team member are:

  • acknowledge people's positions and credentials
  • don't talk over the top of them
  • be clear in your communication (assume they are busy too!)

As my mother would say, "Do unto others..."

Have you got any other tips?

Let's chat
- Karen


  1. ... be ready to be taught as most likely these people shall teach? Be flexible to their approach as seniors expect it to be followed - adapt your modus operandi from leader to complementary leader? Are these valid, Karen?

  2. Bruno - these are all good! I would also add be prepared to take on the role that the team needs from you - even if it's not you're preferred option (within reason of course!)