In the event a manager takes on a particularly ambitious project, it is quite possible s/he has done so with a lack of understanding of the level of expertise or time needed to complete the task. It's also quite possible the manager may not be receptive to the input of a 'naysayer'. As a stakeholder in the performance of said manager, how might you advise?

Edit: original question stated "confront" instead of "approach". I am not implying that I would like advice on how to be confrontational.

3 Answers 3


With data. This is risk management. Identify the threat, assess its drivers and triggers, analyze its likelihood and downstream impacts, and escalate pursuant to the risk procedures outlined in your project management plan.

There are pollyanna personalities out there. If your PM is one of those, then it is your job to overcome that to the degree possible in a non emotional way. The other side of that spectrum are those who are constantly negative and are confident the sky will fall at any minute. Where are you on that spectrum?


In general, pointing out a problem is only partially helpful. Suggesting possible solutions usually elicits better responses. So in addition to pointing out the risks, please come up with mitigation plans and contingency plans for each risk.

Quantifying the probability and impact of the risk will help. Does this project have a project risk register? Have any risks been identified at the time of starting the project?

Start from there.

  • Hi moonstar. Welcome to PMSE! Nice answer!
    – jmort253
    May 18, 2012 at 5:40

That you're using the word "confront" suggests that you expect the manager to be defensive. If you approach with that expectation, it's likely to happen. Do you have any evidence that the manager reacts defensively to the kind of advice you're suggesting? While it's possible that the manager may not be receptive, it's also possible that s/he will. What evidence do you have either way?

If a manager is defensive to feedback and suggestion, that's a different problem to the one you're trying to address, and I would suggest working on that first. If someone is defensive to feedback, this is the most important feedback to give them, especially for people in management. It's far more risky IMO to have a manager that can't take feedback than to have one with optimism about risk, since the first will lead to the second plus a whole load of other problems.

Otherwise, you can use standard feedback techniques - anchor the things you value about the manager; show the evidence for your concern, including any previous experience you have; explain the impact that makes it your business; and above all, treat it as a journey to the place you want to get to, rather than an argument in which you've already taken one side of a confrontation.

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