How to deal with stakeholder frustrations
Especially after presenting roadmaps and not giving them what they want
I still remember the first time I presented a roadmap to my stakeholders. I was insanely proud of the hard work my squad put into finding solutions to so many requests, problems and opportunities. Only to be met with anger, disappointment and anxiety.
That moment taught me a lesson: people will feel angrier for what they won’t have, than happier for what they will. At least in startupland.
So you’re starting your PM career, facing your first roadmap, and you know ☝️, what can you do?
 Everyone thinks their problems are more important than everyone else’s problems. If you see specific stakeholders acting this way, you gotta tackle it asap. Go for a 1-1, show case the entire opportunity space, and your rational for prioritisation.
 Explain your current capacity as if you’re talking to a 5 year old. People don’t get story points or Fibonacci. What they get is examples and analogies. Try to connect future initiatives with past features, and explain how much you were able to deliver.
 Go one step further on what you already know it’s gonna be “hard to swallow”. Whether because it is not going to the roadmap, or because it’s a larger initiative than people think. 1-1s also work well here.
 Make it visual. Use 2x2 matrixes to explain what are quick wins, large bets, incremental stuff and the dreaded money pit. People understand drawings.
 Suck it up and move along. The final advice is “don’t care that they get pissed”. It’s your job. Thick skin goes a long way. Believe in your process and decisions, and carry on. Data and impact will tell whether you were right or wrong.
And even after doing this, it’s quite likely you’ll be met with general frustration. That’s ok, it’s part of the PM job.