As a product manager, what causes you the most stress?

IMO, the main source of stress as a product manager is managing multiple stakeholders and competing priorities. It requires strong communication and prioritization skills. This can often be overwhelming and challenging. However, with experience and practice, it becomes easier to navigate these complexities and find effective solutions.


Some of the pain points that I could think of are:

  • Sales representatives who promote unreleased features.
  • Stakeholders who are impatient and frequently alter their priorities.
  • Devs who overpromise and deliver too little.
  • The pressure and confusion that the CTO, CPO, VP Product, and Product Director bring instead of clarity and alignment.
    More seldom:
  • Agile coaches and Scrum masters who want to teach everyone that their - extremely limited - interpretation of agile is the only correct way to do everything.

Amazing list! I believe I have gone through all of these, and while some of them are reversible, others probably aren’t:

  • Sales - Gosh! how harsh. A clear roadmap, in my opinion, is beneficial, and keeping track of the off-menu items they’ve promised is a way to demonstrate the opportunity costs they’ve generated.

  • Clear OKRs/objectives for stakeholders can be helpful, particularly if you involve them in the planning process and provide regular updates.

  • Reclusive retros from developers. Instead of placing blame, talk openly about why things aren’t getting done. The delivery is all yours to own. Team up to find a solution.

  • Product leaders — honestly, no idea. Find a new job, most likely. Your problem is being caused by the same person who has the solution.

  • Scrum masters, yes, this is terrible. It’s typically an indication that a business is overly preoccupied with delivery and underinvested in results. I don’t have a great idea.


When I was brand-new and just out of college, one of my least favorite projects was to “make our product organization more agile.” I actually cringe as I reflect. Even though I didn’t fully understand product management at the time, I was trying to force everyone to follow all these processes. Even though I had senior sponsorship, looking back, I had no business being in charge of that project.


There are salespeople who promote features that are planned but not yet available, and then there are salespeople who pitch their own features in client meetings.

The latter group is by far the most annoying.


As a product manager, the main source of stress can vary depending on the company, industry, and specific circumstances. However, some common sources of stress for product managers include:

  1. Deadline Pressure: Product managers are often responsible for delivering projects on time, and they may face tight deadlines that create stress and pressure to meet those timelines.
  2. Balancing Priorities: Product managers need to juggle multiple tasks and priorities, including stakeholder expectations, customer needs, budget constraints, and technical challenges. Balancing these competing priorities can be stressful.
  3. Uncertain Market Conditions: The success of a product depends on the market reception, which can be uncertain and unpredictable. This uncertainty can cause stress, especially when significant investments are at stake.
  4. Managing Expectations: Product managers need to manage the expectations of various stakeholders, including executives, engineering teams, marketing teams, and customers. Meeting everyone’s expectations can be challenging and stressful.
  5. Decision-making: Product managers often face critical decisions that can have a significant impact on the success of a product. The pressure to make the right choices can lead to stress and anxiety.
  6. Handling Feedback and Criticism: Products are subject to feedback and criticism from customers and stakeholders. Managing negative feedback and using it constructively can be emotionally taxing.
  7. Interpersonal Challenges: Collaborating with cross-functional teams, negotiating with stakeholders, and resolving conflicts can be stressful, especially when different teams have competing interests.
  8. Resource Constraints: Limited resources, whether it’s budget, time, or manpower, can create stress as product managers need to achieve their goals with the available resources.
  9. Competitive Landscape: Keeping up with the competition and ensuring that the product remains relevant in a rapidly changing market can be stressful.
  10. Managing Scope Creep: Requests for additional features or changes to the product can lead to scope creep, potentially impacting timelines and causing stress for product managers.

To cope with these stressors, effective communication, strong organizational skills, and the ability to prioritize are crucial. Additionally, seeking support from team members, mentors, or supervisors can help product managers manage stress and navigate the challenges of their role more effectively.


They’re frustrating if you let them be. The mistake is thinking that you have to deliver just because they sold it.


Absolutely! Not building might be the best course of action if the company is product-led or at least has a C-level executive who has some knowledge of how to manage a product company.

The decision might be escalated above your head if the company is sales-led and if it is a significant enough deal.

And even if you don’t build it, you might have to spend 20 hours explaining your decision to various people. Undoubtedly a potential stressor.


Absolutely on the scrum master / agile point. They are hell-bent on following it that it gets in the way of adding actual business value and building a great product. Too many meetings and rule-following, not enough productivity and outcomes.


Great list. I’d say politics especially if at a big tech co where turf wars are common.


Stress is caused by toxic people 9 out of 10 times, especially if your manager is one of them. (For instance, dysfunctional senior management that lacks a clear vision or consensus on goals and decides on the spur of the moment to make a 180-degree shift in priorities without any prior notice. leads to the complete demoralization of your development team, who begin to view you as a retard in the process.)

The actual work, such as fixing stuff that randomly breaks, figuring out things, figuring out why a launch didn’t go as planned, answering stakeholder questions, etc., is the remaining 1% source of stress.


@PriyaVarma, I’m grateful I got lucky. I work for a fantastic and encouraging manager. When I tell him I have a people problem, he suggests how I should react and then says, “Let me know if you need me to intervene and what I need to do,” before leaving. It’s one of the things I think has done the most to advance me, in my opinion. Fortunately, I only have a small number of challenging stakeholders, but they are by far the worst aspect of my work.


This! Because of my toxic manager (who suddenly changed his priorities because he didn’t plan well, invalidating my team’s work for the entire year), I am in the process of changing my team.

And “people” are trying to persuade me that I made the wrong choice and that it is just a “people management” problem; I need to learn how to work with him, etc. It really aggravates me.


I see it as the fact that you are never done.

I used to work in consulting before Product, and I enjoyed how one project would end and another would start. That’s not how the product is. There is no resolution. The next target becomes your new goal even if you hit the first one. It makes it difficult for me to leave work. I probably put in around 40 hours per week at work, but it seems like I’m always thinking about it. I spent more than 50 hours a week working in consulting, but when I wasn’t working, I thought about it much less. But I do like the challenges I’m currently facing.

These were all the explanations I found in other answers, which I’m reading now. I like everyone here. Setting priorities and defining the scope of the work are challenges I enjoy. I am able to roll with the punches when delays occur. Toxic individuals, poor management, etc. are all issues, but I don’t believe they are inherent to the product role; rather, I believe these are characteristics of organizations with poor cultures. Please correct me if I’m wrong.


@Nathanendicott, Yeah an ending can be nice. Product does have an end. It is when you reach diminishing returns and you are just keeping it in maintenance mode until you find the next big chunk of value worth working on.

Consultants never finish anything though, they just leave with half built stuff that the company they were consulting doesn’t care to finish because they didn’t care to take the consulting firm’s advice.


I think about this often. I am never done, even when I am done I am still worrying about things that really should be enhanced.

There are days when I crave a job where it is purely transactional like a mason or ER doctor. Unfortunately one does pay nearly as well and I am far too dumb for the other


There are both obvious and less obvious ones, and some of them, in my opinion, are simply a necessary part of the job, requiring handling or mechanical execution. In fact, I categorize work into two categories: decision-making versus mechanical execution, which may be challenging but has a clear path and can be improved upon with practice.

To start, a few that I must mention and have already been mentioned by others (@AngelaBlue, @Nathanendicott, @BobbyDuncan)

Dealing with toxic people, Type-A personalities, and senior leadership. You have to do that. Your job is to be able to change your communication style to connect with people above, below, and among peers because product management is about influence rather than authority. Lean into this because it belongs in the execution and get better bucket and is what will help you grow the most.

Prioritizing conflicting priorities is your responsibility. To outsiders, the difficult part of this situation is having to choose between better and best, or between bad and worse, rather than the mechanics of prioritization. The issue is that it’s not always clear which one is which. Data collection will either take too long or—and here we are getting to the hardest part of the job—you might not even know how to do it. In addition, despite not meaning what they think it does, many people use data as a club. Execution makes up 80% of this; decision-making makes up 20%.

Priorities changing, challenging developers, etc. - This is just a part of the job. See point 1 in the list. Work with them. People are people. It’s time to execute.

Operating in a constant state of wariness is the hardest thing I’ve encountered in my more than ten years as a PM. Not knowing where to start or what questions to ask, particularly if you come from an engineering background (like the majority of PMs), where you’re used to having a deterministic, correct solution.

For instance:

Launched product is underperforming expectations. Why? Do you mean distribution? Is it a byproduct? Is it the price? Fit for the product? Is it knowledge and instruction? You must receive a response within 2-4 weeks. You don’t sell directly (one or two tier distribution) and are not a consumer good, so you don’t own or have access to the customer directly.

Do you raise prices because component prices skyrocketed? (An actual example) What is the proper response? Do you consume margin while avoiding upsetting your clients’ feelings? For a storm in a teacup, do you raise prices and potentially hurt your long-term competitiveness? Is the increase in component price temporary or permanent?

Why did sales decline for three consecutive quarters? Respond in four weeks.

The main problem with these is that there isn’t a single correct response. Only best effort approximation will direct your decision-making in a reasonably short amount of time.

Solution: With practice, you learn how to break the problem down into manageable pieces by domain (sales/product/market) or understand where you can get the most value for your money. But even now, ten years later, in a position of leadership, my stress levels rise when I am asked such questions.

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Thank you! Great summary! You captured all the important points. I really appreciate it.