Ways to Annoy Your Project Stakeholders

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As a project manager, part of your job is to make sure that stakeholders – that’s your project team and key customers and suppliers – get what they need from the project. Your stakeholders should be your key champions. They should be supporting you, helping you achieve the project’s goals and making sure that everyone is pulling in the same direction.

But it’s easy to annoy them. And when that happens, they can transform into people who want nothing to do with your project any longer. That’s a huge risk for a project manager because you need their help and support to be successful. Without their input, you might not be able to deliver your project. Here are ways to annoy your project stakeholders and what you should be doing instead.

Failing to Communicate

Communication should be about 80% of what you do as a project manager. When you don’t tell your team, suppliers or customers what is going on, then they will quickly get annoyed. Worse, they tend to fill in the gaps with their explanation of what’s happening, which is probably not accurate and could be downright damaging to the reputation of the project.

Instead, put together clear project reports. Meet them individually and in groups and keep them informed at every step of the way. Put together a project communication plan and carry out stakeholder analysis so that you can work out who needs to hear what and when they need to hear it. 

Failing to Ask Their Opinion

Communication is one thing, but that tends to be about status updates and project tracking. You need to do more than that to engage them in the project. This can annoy people when they are the subject matter expert in a particular area, and you don’t ask for their input on something that they are highly qualified to comment on. Project managers can fall into the trap of believing that they need to do everything and make all the decisions themselves, but that isn’t the case at all.

Instead, ask their opinion on how to handle project issues as they arise. Take their views into consideration. You don’t have to do what they suggest, but it helps to build relationships if you listen. You can do this through project meetings and be available to listen when they come to you with suggestions. If it’s your team, make sure that they have adequate opportunity to put their views across.

Believing Your Qualifications Give You Superpowers

Being a PMP® does not make you the world’s best project manager (although it might help a tiny bit). Holding a PRINCE2® Practitioner certificate, or an APMP or any other project management designation does not make you beyond reproach.

Talking about your qualifications all the time and how the books do things is a sure way to annoy your stakeholders. They don’t want to hear about your great scores in the exam or how you are applying the methodology to their project. In fact, all they want is that the project goes well. They don’t much care how you get there, most of the time.

Don’t assume that because you have a qualification and know how to do risk management, for example, that you won’t get caught out by a project risk. It happens to the best of us. So it’s better to be humble and dedicated, putting your skills to good use in a practical way while not believing they set you above your peers.

Your qualifications should instead quietly give you the confidence to do your job to the best of your ability, but you’ll find that many people who work as project managers hold certificates. In fact, many people who work in specialist industries hold certificates and for many companies, credentials in your area of expertise, whether that is architecture, accounting or project management, are simply a hygiene factor.

Don’t expect your stakeholders to be impressed and don’t talk about them all the time. Demonstrate your skills by delivering the project well and showing how you apply the knowledge you learned in the classroom.

Changing the Deadline

When everyone has signed up to project milestones and knows what is happening when you can all work harmoniously as one team. When you change the deadlines and don’t tell anyone, that’s when people start to get annoyed.

Changing the dates has a huge impact on other people’s work. They may have booked vacation time around their critical work on the project. They may have had to backfill resources in other teams because someone is needed on the project at a particular time. If you change the dates without understanding all of this background, then you could put the project at risk.

Your project sponsor will instead understand if you can’t hit the agreed milestones. Things change. There are new items added to your project scope or things taken out. But it is not your job to agree on changes to deadlines alone. Work with your project team to understand the impact of change. Then propose a solution to your project sponsor, explaining the rationale behind changing the dates.

Make sure that all the stakeholders are aware of the change and how it might affect their work. Then, with everyone’s agreement, make the change and update your project documentation. You should never simply make changes to dates without letting the rest of the team know first.

Wasting Their Time

Meetings should be efficient, well-managed and a great use of everyone’s time. But that isn’t always the case. Many times stakeholders complain that they have wasted their time in meetings. There hasn’t been an agenda, or the decision they expected to be made wasn’t made because the wrong people were in the room.

You also have other opportunities to waste their time – it’s not just meetings. Don’t clutter their inbox by putting them in a copy of emails when they don’t need to be. ​Instead, stakeholders on projects have another job to do as well, so they need to use their time wisely. Make sure that your meetings have an agenda. Plan them, invite the right people and make sure that you follow up afterward.

Only send emails to the relevant people. If you need to cc someone, make sure that they understand why it’s important for them to be aware, and avoid the dreaded ‘reply all’ as far as you can. Just be conscious of the fact that other people are busy and that your project is not their top priority all the time (if it is at any of the time).