Why Stakeholder Engagement Differs from Stakeholder Management

by Vibrant Publishers


While researching project management concepts, you must have come across these two terms, stakeholder engagement and stakeholder management. While they are similar-sounding, they are actually very different, as project management professional Michelle Bartonico explains later on. Read this blog to understand the difference between these two terms and why they’re equally important for an organization.


Difference between stakeholder engagement and stakeholder management

“A stakeholder is anyone who has some sort of stake in a project,” explains Michelle Bartonico, PMP, in the second episode of the Vibrant Publishers’ Podcast titled Empowering Success Through Stakeholder Engagement. “Anyone who has a stake wants to feel engaged at whatever portion or part of the project that makes sense to them.” While not technically different from stakeholder management, understanding the difference in the two is important for project managers. Managers have to successfully engage and interact with stakeholders, keeping them in the loop about the progress of the project, while on the other hand, managers have to maintain control over stakeholders that impact the project outcome. Here, there is a shift in attitude.


Difference between Stakeholder Engagement and Stakeholder Management
While the two terms are not technically different, the purpose and approach towards stakeholders will significantly impact the project outcome.

When stakeholder engagement comes into play

In the previous blog, Why Stakeholder Engagement is Crucial for Project Success, we saw how good project engagement is all about engaging the right stakeholders and maintaining meaningful relations with them. Michelle Bartonico talks about this in her book, Stakeholder Engagement Essentials You Always Wanted To Know. She defines the difference between engagement and management as follows: “Contrary to someone feeling “managed,” when people are engaged, they are motivated, participatory, and more likely to be a resource.” Stakeholder engagement, therefore, is for empowering people and adding value to the project through participatory efforts. There are situations where engagement is needed and situations when managing stakeholders is needed.


When stakeholder management is needed

Management comes into play in the case of stakeholders who have a direct impact on the outcome of a project, such as employees and project teams. There are five phases of project management, and stakeholders are involved in all of these phases, right from project initiation to completion. To understand the fine line between engaging and managing a stakeholder, you need to look at what the role of the stakeholder is. The stakeholder can be a simple “advocate”, “critic”, or “neutral”. Assessing where your stakeholders lie on the spectrum of stakeholder status can help to define whether an engagement or a management approach will work best.


You’ve categorized your stakeholders. Now what?

The primary difference between engagement and management is—communication! As we discussed earlier, some stakeholders like investors and senior management may benefit from a more “engaged” approach, while others like vendors or employees are best “managed”. How you communicate with each of these stakeholders, then, will be shaped by which approach you use while dealing with them. The core principles of communication with stakeholders remain the same: focus on building interpersonal relationships and leverage what each stakeholder has to offer in the lifecycle of the project.



In this blog, we discussed why it’s important to know when to engage and when to manage stakeholders. The difference lies primarily in the contribution each stakeholder provides in the project workflow. Knowing the difference can help streamline project operations. In the next blog, we will talk about the key skills you require to become a successful project manager.

Listen to the full podcast on Spotify.com or check it out on YouTube.

Read the next blog in this series here.