How to Deal with a Difficult Stakeholder | Velopi

How to Prepare for the PMP Exam Day

One of Ireland’s former Ministers for Education, Ruiri Quinn, wanted to stamp out bullying in the classroom, in the schoolyard and online. He insisted that every school had to come up with an action plan to achieve this goal.

But was he right? The problem with bullying is that it is not simply confined to our schooldays. We are subject to it all through our adult lives as well. We might have fancier terms for it – “power politics” or “force majeure” – but, when the dust settles, it all boils down to bullying. As part of the government that wanted to “burn the bondholders”, Mr Quinn should have appreciated the bullying potential of banks and the might of the International Monetary Fund.

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Understanding the Reality of Bullying in Project Management

As project managers, we too experience our fair share of bullying. How many PMPs® have been forced into accepting unrealistic budgets or schedules? How many projects have been derailed by belligerent stakeholders who have put obstacles in the way, just to score points against the project sponsor or the organization as a whole?

The Importance of Coping Strategies and Professionalism

If Mr Quinn had achieved his aim and stamped out bullying among children, how would the next generation have coped with the sorts of bullying they would face in the workplace? Would it not be better to instruct young people in coping strategies? Just like anyone who wants to get into project management needs to deal with the sort of awkward characters that pop up from time to time.

Using Factual Data to Counter Bullying

The best way for a project manager to deal with bullying is to be professional. Deal with facts and make decisions explicit. For instance, a common ploy that senior managers use is to treat the project manager’s project estimate as an opening gambit. This is countered with a lower offer and the assumption is that the project manager expects to be beaten down and has padded the estimates in advance.

Applying Formal Sign-off and Transparency to Fight Against Bullying

Introducing formal sign-off for budget and schedule baselines is another sensible step. Bullies tend to be cowardly and will delight in forcing you into agreeing to unrealistic estimates. However, if they have to sign their name to the reduced estimates, suddenly the risk of failure is back at their door.

Strategies for Dealing with Difficult Stakeholders

Again, during the project, powerful stakeholders (remember the power / influence grid from Project Stakeholder Management in your PMP® course?) might seek to rush things along by using bullying tactics. This is where the PMP® needs to draw on facts. If the project is running behind schedule, the project manager has to report this. If the project’s schedule is being affected by powerful stakeholders, this needs to be made clear. It has to be shown exactly where the problem lies and what steps are needed to address the problem.

Velopi’s project management training courses cover resource and stakeholder management. If this area is intriguing for you, you might consider one of our project management certification courses that are held online in our virtual classroom. Find out more by visiting our training page or by contacting us directly.


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