How Good Team Members Deal with Delivering Bad News
No one likes to deliver bad news. But sometimes you have no choice. Sometimes you have to give your customers, managers, or employees information that will displease them or make them angry. How can you best deliver the bad news?
First of all, take care of yourself. In other words, let your own emotions run their course before you share the news with others. It’s important that you don’t let your own emotional energy creep into your communication. If you exhibit nervousness or anger or your voice has a certain edge to it, you risk exacerbating the negative response of those on the receiving end.
In delivering your message, get to the point. Building up to it with some extraneous blah-blah-blah won’t work, especially if your audience already anticipates the bad news. And try to avoid using spin tactics hoping you can fool people into thinking the bad news is actually good news. “Spin” suggests a creative way of concealing the negative and misleading those affected. It often implies duplicitous, deceptive, or manipulative tactics. Ultimately, you fool no one and damage your own reputation.
Timing matters. Deliver bad news with as little delay as possible. It’s understandable to want to put it off in hopes that circumstances will change, things will improve, and no one will need to know what almost happened. But sometimes things don’t improve—or never even had a chance of improving. Customers have told me emphatically that they’d rather have bad news now than worse news later; not having the news until later automatically makes it worse because there is less time to make appropriate adjustments.
In addition to timing, consider the setting. Privacy is important. Receiving bad news is difficult enough without being humiliated by others who are able to listen in. Privacy gives recipients the opportunity to respond if they choose to and to deal with whatever reaction they may experience without the world looking on. And if you’ll be the bearer of bad news, make sure you turn off all your digital distractions; a cell phone ringing in the middle of announcing layoffs is not cool!
Finally, when delivering bad news, strive to be empathetic. Try to imagine yourself on the receiving end. Maybe you don’t even have to imagine; chances are you’ve been there at some point in your career. Even so, don’t tell people you know how they feel—because you don’t. But you can acknowledge that this is difficult news for them. If feasible, see if there are ways you can help them cope.
What other tips would you recommend based on your own bad-news-giving (or bad-news-receiving) experience?