Tips For Sharing Bad News with Stakeholders

Dear Stakeholders: We have a problem. If you dread communicating project glitches to customers, take heart—telling folks your project is facing issues is rarely a fun task, but we have some suggestions on how (and why) to get bad news out in the open.

1 – Say it early. Unless it’s an issue you’re certain can be handled internally without any detectable effects on stakeholders, you’re best off sounding the alert early. End users and supporters are more likely to be amenable to solutions that impact time-frames or final objectives if they can see you’ve been proactive and upfront with them.

2 – Say it clearly. Now is not the time for buzzwords or vague project-speak—confusing your stakeholders will only make them more unhappy. Instead, plainly state the issue, along with its triggers (if you can). Misunderstandings certainly won’t build support for whatever solution you implement, so lay out the facts in understandable language.

3 – Say it without blame. The urge to point fingers may be strong, but now is not the time to indulge it. Even if a vendor completely dropped the ball and botched your project to smithereens, it’s better to deal with the issue professionally—and with the vendor directly—than to air your grievances far and wide. Explain the probable cause of the problem in broad terms (e.g., manufacturing delays, supply chain shortages) but consider keeping the details within your Project Team.

4 – Say it with a solution. You may not have completely formulated a plan to deal with the problem yet, but framing the issue along with a possible resolution will often go a long way toward maintaining stakeholders’ confidence in your team. Be sure to delineate where the plan is still in development, so you aren’t inadvertently setting expectations you may need to revisit later.


PMAlliance uses a team of highly experienced and certified professionals to provide project management consultingproject management training and project office development services.

Project Experience

Portfolio Management
Successful portfolio management calls for exceptional data management skills and diligent oversight across multiple efforts.
Demanding, time sensitive, and finely tuned, manufacturing projects require close attention and experienced oversight.
IT Projects
Organizations must be able to successfully execute challenging and highly visible technology projects to maximize revenue.
Power Plants
Power Plants must be able to keep these vital infrastructure assets current, efficient, and economically positive.
High-profile hurdles and expensive risks of failure make these projects critical to manage properly from the very beginning.
Presents complexities at nearly every stage, from allocating resources to controlling schedule variances, or clearing regulatory & safety hurdles.
Ensuring team members are able to move outside the silos of their department or discipline is the key to achieving success.
Product Dev
Design and other early-stage activities must be carefully orchestrated while maintaining visibility on future impacts and resource needs.
Mergers & Acquisitions
Among the riskiest and most strategically important initiatives a company can undertake, and their outcomes can make or break the business.
Finance & Insurance
Technology implementations call for the right level of planning detail and diligent oversight.
An ERP implementation can be among the most disruptive and strategically important initiative an organization can undertake.