How to Deliver Bad News to the Project Sponsor

How to Deliver Bad News to the Project Sponsor

As a project manager, it is never an easy task to deliver bad news to the project sponsor. There’s no way to know what to expect from them. They will most likely be disappointed or frustrated, and that is something that you have to face.

The nature of projects is that not everything will go as planned 100% of the time. As a consequence, budget adjustments and extensions have to be made. When you know how to communicate and deliver the bad news to the project sponsors in an effective manner, you have the chance to strengthen your relationship with them.

Here are some of the steps you can take in communicating the bad news about the project to your sponsors.

Place Yourself in their Position

Before telling the sponsor the bad news, first, imagine being in their shoes. Think about how you would react if someone told you that there is something wrong with the project. It is important that you have an idea of how the sponsors would feel once you break the news. By getting their point of view, you can empathize better with them to show that you do care and you do want to deliver the best results for them.

Go Straight to the Point and Be Honest About It

You have to be able to tell your sponsor the truth. To do this, arrange a face-to-face meeting so you can tell the news to them. During your discussion, be direct and be honest. Don’t keep on telling excuses or half-truths. It isn’t going to help.

For example, if you know that the project is going to be delayed and you are going to need more time than what you initially thought, tell them that and then show them your new timeline on when things are going to be finalized. After telling them the bad news, they are more interested in your Plan B rather than your excuses.

If you are direct and honest about the problem, the issues can be tackled head-on and the cause can be identified. This way, you can work towards finding a remedy to the problem rather than pointing fingers on who to blame.

Take the Blow. That’s How to Responsible

As a project manager, you represent the whole team working on the project. You speak for everyone, and you are responsible for making sure things will be done on time and within budget. If these are not met, you shouldn’t make excuses. It’s your responsibility as the project manager to see to it that everyone in the team will abide by the deadlines. If things don’t work out as planned, don’t blame the team members. Instead, find alternative solutions to the problem.

Listen to What Your Sponsors Have to Say

When you have already delivered the bad news, you have to listen to what the sponsors have to say about it. Take note of the points that they will be raising because these may be things that you have not considered. Also, jot down their concerns so that you know what you have to address.

Provide Alternative Solutions

Once the issue is out in the open, the next step is providing solutions to the project sponsors. What’s ideal here would be to provide a Plan B that will be a win-win for both the sponsor and you. The remedy to the problem should be able to address the main concerns of the sponsors.

Show the pros and cons of the plans that you have. The focus of the discussion should be on assessing the best solutions for the problem. Doing so will allow you to turn a bad situation into an opportunity for a stronger relationship and collaboration with them because the sponsor will see your sincerity in wanting to get things done.

Be Clear with the Expectations that You Set

Once you and the sponsors have agreed on the best possible alternative, you should also tell them when you will be able to deliver the results. Be careful in scheduling the tasks and deliverables because you wouldn’t want to disappoint your sponsors again. Be realistic and clear in setting expectations for your project sponsors.

Restating Your Commitment

Lastly, don’t forget to tell the project sponsors that you do value the opportunity that has been given to you to handle the project and collaborate with them. You should be dedicated and committed to the project that has been entrusted to you. Your project sponsors will be able to sense your sincerity and will trust that you can deliver. Don’t give them a reason to be disappointed and stop trusting you. Just do your best in managing the team so that the project can move forward towards your goals.


When talking with the project sponsors, remember to be understanding and compassionate. It is never an easy task to deliver bad news. And it is not about having someone to blame. What’s important is that you have a backup plan on how to get things done, and for the project to be a success under your leadership.

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