Project Management Institute

Project Behavior

Guest Editors:

Christine Unterhitzenberger Lancaster University Management School, UK

Ralf Müller BI Norwegian Business School, Norway

“Unfortunately, project management scholars are largely unaware of the work on teams in organizational psychology. (...) Consequently, the project management literature is often based on outdated models, for example those of motivation and team development” (Hobbs, Chiocchio, & Kelloway, 2015, pp. 1–2)

This quote by Hobbs et al. (2015) refers to the disconnect observed between traditional project management research and developments in organizational behavior (OB). Human aspects are gaining more and more attention in project studies, which bears the responsibility to ensure that the theories, models, and approaches used are current, appropriate, and relevant. In 2010, 35% of the articles published in Project Management Journal® and the International Journal of Project Management discussed typical OB issues; however, only 9% of their references were from OB-related journals (Chiocchio, Messikomer, Hobbs, Allen, & Lamerson, 2011). This is reason for concern in terms of the rigor, relevance, and currency of the development of human aspects in project studies. It raises questions about our understanding of the behavioral and social dynamics within projects and our potential to explain and interpret results. Additionally, projects provide particular organizational settings for the behavior of individuals and groups, such as temporariness, uniqueness, and progressive elaboration, which are inadequately addressed in OB research (Hobbs et al., 2015). Hence, we recognize that up until now insufficient attention has been paid to the specific organizational settings of projects in OB research and to OB aspects in project studies. We should fill this void by reaching out to OB theorists and allow them to inform our work theoretically as well as to OB scholars and invite them to contribute to this special issue on project behavior.

The Aim of the Special Issue and Research Questions We are Interested in

This special issue aims to bring together a wide range of papers focusing on the human behavior in projects and the interface between human behavior and projects. We are interested in papers that take a single or multi-level perspective, as the levels of analysis may range from the individuals in the project (micro-level) to the work groups or project teams (meso-level), to how the project itself behaves (macro-level) (Andersson, Jackson, & Russell, 2013). With the above in mind, we invite papers that are theoretically informed by the broad field of OB theories and based on conceptual or empirical research using conceptual, qualitative, quantitative, or mixed-methods designs.

Questions that might be addressed in the papers include:

  • Which forms of stress do project managers experience? How do project managers cope with stress?
  • What are the indicators of imminent burnout in individuals?
  • How do you sense emerging frustration in teams and how do you handle it?
  • What roles do individual’s emotions and beliefs play in project teams?
  • How do power and politics impact an individual’s commitment to the project?
  • Project citizenship behavior: What is it and how does it emerge in projects?
  • How do project teams and managers react and interact with artificial intelligence, for example, with decision-making systems?
  • How do projects relate to organizational norms?
  • What is the relationship between employee commitment and productivity in the context of different project management approaches?

This list of questions is not exhaustive. The questions intend to stimulate thinking about the various aspects of project behavior. We welcome papers beyond what we have listed as long as they make a new contribution to our understanding of project behavior.

Timeline of the Special Issue:

Full papers should be submitted by 31 October 2020 via the journal submission site ( Papers accepted for publication, but not included in the special issue will be published later in a regular issue of the journal. The anticipated timeline for this special issue is:

  • Submission deadline: 31 October 2020
  • Review and revision cycle: November 2020–September 2021
  • Approximate acceptance: October 2021
  • Approximate publication in print: February 2022.

Manuscripts submitted for this special issue should follow the same author guidelines as those for regular issues. We expect authors and reviewers to work in a timely manner in order to comply with the anticipated timeline outlined above.

For further information or additional questions please contact one of the guest editors of this special issue.

Christine Unterhitzenberger:

Ralf Müller:


Andersson, L., Jackson, S. E., & Russell, S. V. (2013), Greening organizational behavior: An introduction to the special issue. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 34 (2), 151–155.

Chiocchio, F., Messikomer, C., Hobbs, B., Allen, N., & Lamerson, C. (2011). “Human factors” in project management research: Where is I/O psychology? 26th Annual Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology Conference.Chicago, IL.

Hobbs, B., Chiocchio, F., & Kelloway, E. (2015). The importance of project teams and the need for an interdisciplinary perspective. In: Chiocchio, F., Kelloway, E. & Hobbs, B. (eds.) The psychology and management of project teams. Oxford University Press.