Rejection: A Trick That The Project Manager Should Master On

Today’s article is about how to refuse or reject someone in the process of project management, in some very special scenario.


A Trick That The Project Manager Should Master On

PMP, ProjectManagement, Rejection, StakeholderManagement, ACP, PgMP, Agile, PMI, CAPM

In real life, we always have to face various people and matters, which could be positive or negative, or we are happy about or not happy about, or we agree with or not agree with. Some of these matters we would be happy to accept, but others we would have no choice but to refuse. How to deal with all these people and matters becomes the main part of our daily life, affecting every aspect of our life.


When someone proposes something that is not realistic or simply can not be achieved in a certain time, as project managers, how can we reject him/her without either hurting ourselves or hurting the other person involved? Mastering the technique of appropriate rejection has a positive meaning to most people. Doing project management is also the same. As a project manager, learn how to appropriately reject or refuse some unreasonable requirements would make a positive contribution to the success of the project.


1. Rejecting a client is possible

As project managers, the client is the one who we contact the most, and the client is also the one who proposes requirements. Normally, our client would raise business requirements, which we would expect to be clear and intact. But in reality, it is not always true. The client always changes their requirements or add new requirements during project execution, which makes our project falls into circulation or even stand still. Under these circumstances, sometimes we should learn how to say no to our clients.

Uncertainty of requirements can cause a negative impact on the project’s quality and progress, or even could cause unexpected circumstances. Although we could adopt an iterative life cycle for requirement management, communication with clients during iterations could cause new management problems.

Some clients even consider themselves as gods, which means what they said should be followed and executed unhesitatingly. If not, they would reach our leaders. Sometimes they even request us to do the thing that does not belong to the scope of the project. This kind of action is not a reasonable request either for the project or for the overall interest of our company. If we said yes to all the unreasonable requests, then it would certainly hurt the cost and the overall controllability of our project.

Then, how to say no to our clients and let them fully understand our intention without hurting the interests of both sides? The first thing we should know is to be kind to the client while letting them know our reasons why we reject their requests. Sometimes the requests of our clients could be endless, whether they are functional or of business, finding the appropriate solution which would fit the interests of both sides is essential.

On the other hand, we could add some reasonable restrictions into the contract during the contractual negotiation. Such as, we could require that the client’s requirements must be clear and certain at the beginning of the project. If not, the client should bear the additional cost if they want to change the requirements in the middle of the project.

Of course, sometimes the client’s requests are not totally unreasonable. When communicating with our clients, accept what we should accept, and reject what we should reject.


2. Reject our leader is also possible

Except for our clients, our leader is the one we mostly communicate with. Maybe some project managers would consider rejecting their boss as a negative action since it would possibly leave a bad impression on their leaders. But in reality, these kinds of worries are not necessary.

Everybody has his own specialty. Most of the time our leader’s specialty and top focus is not on project management. Therefore, one of the project manager’s responsibilities and power is to express his own opinion and idea of project management to the upper level and gain recognition from the company’s senior management. If under some circumstances our leaders could not fully understand the job of project manager due to multiple factors of the project itself, we could consider following some of these suggestions:

1. Make a neat and simple summary of the project’s overall requirements. The summary does not have to be very detailed, but it has to be very powerful.

2. As project managers, our main focus should be on project planning, since the leaders care the most about what we are going to do and what we are going to achieve.

3. The changes of the project is also what our leaders care about because some changes could lead to some unforeseeable risks which could affect the progress and cost of the project, or even affect the company’s profit achieved by this project. In a word, we should present the whole situation clearly and propose a solution to our leaders.


Reject and being rejected are very common when we communicating with others. The mentioned rejections to our clients and our leaders are the two kinds of most common rejections that project managers should learn for some special scenarios. Except for the rejections presented in this article, there are other rejections such as rejecting our colleagues, rejecting other project managers, or rejecting some third party, and so forth. But please remember, only reject the unreasonable request, standing for the overall interests of both sides.

Rejecting someone is permissible, but as a professional project manager, we have to master the key of reasonable rejection. That being said, learn how to reject, whether rejection or accepting, the final purpose is to serve the project and make the project successful.


In summary, this article presents the reason and methods of two kinds of most common rejections in our daily life as a project manager: rejecting our clients and rejecting our leaders.

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