Delivering the bad news is never anyone’s favorite job. Most of us would rather go for the other option which is delivering the good news. Nevertheless, sometimes we are the bearer of bad news. The question then becomes, can we deliver it to make it not-quite-so-bad. Well, yes, and no.
The truth is, if you know the person isn’t going to really like the outcome of what you’re saying, there isn’t anything you can do to change that. The other truth is that we can allow ourselves, as the messenger and them, as the receiver, some grace by establishing the context and doing our best to mindful about our delivery.
A few tips:
- Be direct and get to the point. There is no reason for hemming and hawing. The person receiving your message can feel this coming a mile away.
- Give a warning shot: “I wish I had better news” is a great way of preparing the person for what you’re about to say and not surprising them after a jovial, “excited it’s Friday?!” comment.
- Keep it simple and do your best to deliver the news in 3-4 sentences. Or what I call, one or two out-breaths. Going on and on with your explanation only sets you up for defending the decision and the receiver for defending themselves.
- Make space for the receiver’s emotions and their response. It isn’t your job to control their feelings and they are entitled to have a moment of reaction. Make as much space for silence as there is for talking.
- Move towards the future after they have a moment or two to process the news. “Given what we know now, what are your concerns and how would you like to move forward?”
How have you delivered the bad news at work? What works for you or not?