Most of my clients come across the term "difficult stakeholders" when being interviewed by either recruitment agents or HR.
It seems as if all companies are staffed by difficult people who are unable to collaborate, have no shared goals, and have never worked in teams. Sometimes it really goes so wild that any sane professional would question that opportunity. Why should anyone join a team that will be a blocker for their success?
A lot of candidates get rejections based on their insufficient skills in dealing with such difficult people.
In this blog, I'm going to share a few strategies for answering that kind of question.
The first tip is to clarify what they mean by saying "difficult stakeholders" and who they are. Don't be afraid of asking a direct question. This will not only help you to structure your answer but also to get more information about the team and corporate culture.
In most cases, stakeholders are any people you will need to deal with when doing your job. They may be your clients, colleagues from finance, HR, sales department, or partners.
It is the first important milestone as it reveals what is in the company's backstage: corporate culture and relationships with clients or partners.
If their answer is about customers, you have a few messages to get through to them.
The important thing is to show that you understand how customer experience is vital, and its direct impact on the company's growth and success. Mention that you take responsibility for the customer's journey and put their happiness at the centre of everything you do. Provide examples from your experience when you have dealt with an extremely demanding client or an unhappy client.
Communicate the idea that you treat all your clients equally, whether they are easy or not, and apply the same customer-centric approach to everyone.
If the situation is getting out of control, search for managers' advice. It's absolutely fine to say that if you have done everything possible within your purview and company policy.
If their answer is about internal clients, remember that they want to check how you approach a difficult situation, your communication skills, your EQ, and if you can remain calm and find a solution.
Start by saying that, generally, you try not to get into difficult situations with coworkers, you believe that you are all united by a shared goal, and it is always possible to find a win-win solution. Being able to consistently keep the peace is a great skill.
Show your empathy and ability to see others' points of view by being friendly and assertive at the same time. Share your experience from the past, but be specific if you give examples.
Keep your answer emotion-free and with a happy ending.
You may also share some tips that help you stay effective and time-efficient. For example, some people need to get a reminder a few days before the due date; or you may set up a due date two days before your deadline, so you won't be in trouble if someone misses it.
Lastly, remember that the recruitment process is a two-way street. If they say that difficult stakeholders are the colleagues who are deaf to peer's business requests, arrogant or unable to cooperate, think twice before moving forward with that opportunity.
A company's culture and environment play a huge role in employees' success. There is enough competition on the market, and you shouldn't expend your resources on struggling with your own team members.