Ask the Industry Expert: How to Project Manage the Six “Severance” Personalities on Your Team

If you’ve watched the latest Apple TV® hit Severance, then you’ll know what I’m talking about. If not, you’ve at least heard the hype – it’s that dystopian/sci-fi series where some people elect to have a brain implant to essentially “sever” the link between their work and personal life consciousness so that their work selves don’t remember their personal selves, and vice versa.

Given the myriad types of personalities that project managers need to work with, I found that the six main characters in this series fit really well with some typical archetypes that PMs find themselves working with.

So, let’s get into these personalities, and how they map to some familiar stakeholders you may need to communicate with (a note for superfans: this covers only these characters’ innies, not outies):

1.    The “Mark”

a. Meta tags for this personality type:

Mark is pretty much your ideal boss – trusting, caring, and only a smidge of a tendency to be a rule-breaker, as long as nobody gets hurt.

b.    Preferred communication style:

Model their model-like professional behavior and you will be fine.

c.     Hot buttons:

They think a lot about their concerns about you — whether you’re unhappy or have an issue of any kind. They are all about taking care of others and dealing with constant disruptions by trying to keep things at an even keel.

d.    Sweet spot for communication:

Mark loves for you to simply meet simple expectations. Anything else may throw them off and cause confusion.

e.    A project template they would love:

This personality would love our Change Request template to help them see how to manage the constant disruption and volatility that a workplace can experience. This will speak to their sensibility, and maybe even garner you a special look with kind eyes.

2. The “Harmony”

a.    Meta tags for this personality type:

Harmony is a micromanager and uber-company ambassador. This type can be a boss, a boss’s boss, or another higher-up stakeholder.

b.    Preferred communication style:

Check in and communicate as much as possible – but be short and sweet about it.

c.     Hot buttons:

Forgetting to cc them or inviting them to meetings really pushes "Harmony's" buttons. Not including them in key conversations will make them feel out of control and out of the loop, which are big fears for them.

d.    Sweet spot for communication:

The more this personality sees their name everywhere in your documentation and meeting invites, the better.

e.    A project template they would love:

This personality would love the OKR Template to give them detailed visibility into how all projects tie back to the higher-level strategies that they are responsible for. This will keep their wolfish behavior at bay, and maybe even get you an optional handshake.

3. The “Helly”

a.    Meta tags for this personality type:

Helly is a rebel with an unknown cause, with uncertainty issues. They could be any team member at any level.

b.    Preferred communication style:

Offer Helly guideposts to help them manage their ups and downs, but otherwise, don’t bother them too much.

c.     Hot buttons:

Hovering, putting too many demands on them, and not giving them enough structure or guidance are all touchy areas for Helly.

d.    Sweet spot for communication:

Having a good listener and someone that can guide them through their experiences is crucial for Helly.

e.    A project template they would love:

The Roadmap Template would help this personality see where their tasks are leading, how they are interconnected, and the progress of what their work leads to. This will help a person of this type feel more secure, and maybe even get you invited to a team dance party.

4. The “Dylan”

a.    Meta tags for this personality type:

Dylan is a bit of an egomaniac, snark-master, and also comic relief. They usually fall into the peer-type of resource category, but this can vary.

b.    Preferred communication style:

Trade some good barbs; make Dylan feel good about the work they are doing.

c.     Hot buttons:

Taking work too seriously, or not including them in conversations or tasks can annoy Dylan.

d.    Sweet spot for communication:

Having some lighthearted conversation and looping them in to help solve problems helps Dylan feel comfortable at work.

e.    A project template they would love:

This personality type would love the Retrospective Template to show them shout-outs for themselves and other team members, and help them feel good about the work they are doing. This will help a person of this type feel more motivated, and maybe even inspire them to get a glass sculpture made with an image of your team.

5. The “Milchick”

a.    Meta tags for this personality type:

Milchick is a watchdog – they can be a mid-level manager, team manager, functional manager, or another supervisory role with a team of direct reports.

b.    Preferred communication style:

Be available and responsive at all times, or Milchick will come looking for you.

c.     Hot buttons:

Not being in your seat (or at-the-ready on Slack) during your working hours, or really any appearance of rule-breaking is a red flag for Milchick.

d.    Sweet spot for communication:

The more they see you in person or online doing what you are supposed to be doing, the more Milchick will like what you do.

e.    A project template they would love:

This personality type is all about the Kanban Board – to see quickly and easily what everyone is working on and their real-time progress. This will make this type so happy, that maybe you’ll even throw you a waffle party.

6. The “Irving”

a.     Meta tags for this personality type:

Irving is a by-the-book, process-hound, regular drinker from the Kool-Aid fountain. They could be a teammate or someone who has been at your company long-term.

b.    Preferred communication style:

Irving likes to be looped in and directed using language from the company handbook.

c.     Hot buttons:

Stepping out of protocol is a no-no for Irving unless you are taking a trip to their favorite department.

d.    Sweet spot for communication:

Using the company lingo as much as possible to get your points across will put you right on Iriving's radar.

e.    A project template they would love:

The Security Governance and Compliance Checklist is perfect for this personality type to clearly see the protocols that ensure compliance with governance guidelines. This will make this type feel so policy-giddy, they may even forget to say their cringe-inducing, trademark greeting to you.

And there you have it. Whether you’re refining data, or are in any other industry or sector where you are managing teams, chances are that there are correlations between who you manage and the templates that will serve them well.

As Wrike is both the compiled and the manifested blend of “work,” “life,” and “right” (the polar opposite of Severance's plot), I wish you all a happy Wrike-ing.

Chris Hare is an award-winning author and certified program and project management professional with 16 years of experience working for such companies as Adobe, Patagonia, and Guitar Center. Her tenure includes managing hundreds of successful projects for a myriad of client- and agency-side organizations, PMO permutations, and methodologies. At her current role at Wrike, she lends her industry thought leadership and subject matter expertise through product innovations, events, mentor groups, and blog columns.

Have a question you’d like Chris to answer? Send us an email!

Featured image: Apple TV Plus

Comments 0

Sorry, this content is unavailable due to your privacy settings. To view this content, click the “Cookie Preferences” button and accept Advertising Cookies there.

Cookie Preferences