HOW TO GIVE “BAD NEWS”
Nobody likes to give bad news, but it's part of the job.
People don't get promoted, they don't get a pay increase, and sometimes they even get fired, and you get to be the messenger. It’s a very uncomfortable part of a manager’s job. So what do we do? We try to make it less painful, and when we do, we make things worse!
Here's what you don't want to do -
- Don't beat around the bush, because people feel ambushed and manipulated when you do.
- Don't “sugarcoat”, because that only creates confusion.
- And don’t try to soften the blow, because you create false hope.
- Don't editorialize, because all it does is promote speculation.
- Don’t fill the silence, because they will need uninterrupted time to process.
- And don’t apologize, because it suggests that someone has done something wrong.
- Don't negotiate, either, because it encourages debate.
- Don't make it about you, because that's really insensitive.
- And don’t make promises that you can’t keep!
Here's what you should do -
- Prepare in advance, and this includes picking the right time and place to deliver the news. (Earlier in the day is better, when people have the emotional and mental energy needed to process the news.)
- Get to the point; tell people upfront that you've got “bad news”.
- Focus on the facts; give the information they need to know as succinctly as possible.
- Give people time to process; because you have to let the news set in.
- Listen to them; encourage them to think and process their emotions “out loud”.
- Expect an initial, emotional reaction, because people process their feelings before their thoughts.
- Empathize; go ahead and acknowledge how they're feeling.
- Answer their questions, but don't speculate. If you “don't know”, you “don't know”.
- Be compassionate. You can show sympathy and concerns for their wellbeing, but you have to support the decision, and you have to support the “decision maker”.
You can practice giving bad news by mentally rehearsing the conversation. The more you can visualize yourself, the setting, and their reactions, the better. With practice and experience, you’ll be able to deliver bad news more effectively. But unlike the other skills you develop, you’ll never enjoy it.
It’s stressful! And it’s easy to lose sleep over. But remember this - you care! And because you care, you practice and prepare to deliver the message in the most effective and compassionate way possible. And when you do, you’re the best person to be delivering the news!