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Negotiating with a reluctant stakeholder: tips for project managers


Published: 26th February 2021

Negotiating can be one of the more challenging aspects of being a project manager, and the trickiest of all negotiations will take place with a reluctant stakeholder .

Whether your stakeholder is a group, an organisation or an individual they will be impacted by the outcome of the project you are working on. Of course, they may have a huge interest in the success of the project, but they can also have a negative influence on the project. Such as when a project has been imposed on individuals or whole departments and they are reluctant to change. When there are multiple people involved in the project, whether they are there from inception or join part way through, a good project manager will need to learn how to manage each of them, even those who do not form a direct part of the project team. When it comes to stakeholders you need them on your side because otherwise they can hinder a project at every turn.

Using the right techniques

When it comes to dealing with your stakeholders it is really important to ensure that they are kept in the loop, this will ensure that they feel connected to the project, and more importantly that they are less likely to feel the need to get involved in every detail of the project.  So, treat them like anything else that is on your task list and prioritise them. Stakeholders who feel like they are being included are more likely to trust your decision making, allowing you to get on with the project.


One of your most important project management skills is that of communication, which is why it is such an important part of all project management courses. When it comes to your stakeholders it is important to ensure that communication does not just take the form of verbal communication. It can be a good idea to put things in writing so that you both remember what has been agreed. This is particularly important if your stakeholder is involved in multiple projects as it is easy to get confused over which decisions have been made for each project. Having things written down will give a proper record of what has been decided and will ensure that there are no disagreements later on helping you with your negotiations.

Be Tactful

Sometimes there may be a valid reason for a conflict you have with your reluctant stakeholder. Do not just sweep this under the carpet, you still need to achieve a successful outcome for your project whilst meeting the quality that your stakeholder expects. If what they are suggesting is not in the best interests of the project, then it is important that you address this but remember whilst honesty is important it is also necessary to be tactful. Your stakeholder will not want to hear that they are wrong, it is better to make an alternative suggestion that will work rather than simply taking away the option they have suggested.

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