What Do You Do With Unhappy Stakeholders?

by Lakecia Carter, PMP

Unhappy StakeholderHave you ever had an unhappy stakeholder on your project? If you haven’t, just keep managing projects. For the vast majority of us, the answer is a resounding “Of course!” Somewhere along my PM journey, I realized that I can’t make every person on my projects happy. I learned that some stakeholders may be unhappy for reasons that are beyond my control. Interestingly enough, some of my most valuable lessons have come from my unhappiest stakeholders. I have grown through these difficult relationships which enabled me to become a stronger PM. Just in case you are dealing with an unhappy stakeholder, here are 3 things you can do to turn it around!

Agree With Them

Agree with them that there is a problem that needs to be fixed. Even though it may not be your “fault”, acknowledge the problem and focus on the solutions. Initiate an open and honest dialogue as early as possible. Never avoid conflict.

Don’t Make Them Happy

Focusing on emotions is counterproductive and causes us to miss the bigger picture. Rather than make them happy, make them satisfied. Satisfaction can be achieved by agreeing upon key success criteria at the very beginning of the relationship, and managing expectations along the way. Satisfied stakeholders will remain loyal in the good times and the bad.

Focus On What You Can Do – Not What They Can Do

Sometimes unhappy stakeholders can reveal harsh truths that we don’t want to hear. While we should never agree with something that we don’t believe in, we should always listen to their feedback and learn from it. Resist the urge to place blame and check yourself first.

While there are never any guarantees, there are steps you can take to improve your stakeholder relationships when they become difficult. Most importantly, agree with them that a problem needs to be solved and focus on the solution. Don’t make them happy, but keep them satisfied. Finally, focus on what you can do to improve rather than blame them. Whatever you do, remain positive and use it as an opportunity to grow!

What are some of the ways that you dealt with unhappy stakeholders on your projects?

If you found these tips from Lakecia Carter, PMP of value and are a PMP looking to earn PMI PDUs, you might be interested in her self-paced, downloadable courses at PDUs2Go.com.


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