No one likes to break bad news to business associates, employees or clients. In business, bad news should almost always be direct, without beating around the bush. In today’s Workshop Jeffrey Moses discusses ways to deliver the message without unduly aggravating the situation or the individuals involved.
If you have to give bad news, come right to the point rather than making small talk. Delivering bad news sympathetically, considerately and directly is both professional and effective.
* “Bob, I need to tell you something regarding the decision you’ve been waiting for.”
* “Joan, the committee has reviewed your request, and I’m sorry to say it wasn’t approved.”
* “Please have a seat, Ted. Unfortunately your promotion didn’t come through, and I’d like to talk with you about it.”
Each of these examples shows a professional but caring approach.
Before delivering the news, always try to gather as many facts as possible to show why a decision was made. Data such as production figures, financial results and personnel reports will show that any decision was carefully considered.
Don’t delay giving bad news. It’s always an unpleasant task, but delay only makes things more difficult for the recipient. Never, under any circumstances, should the recipient hear bad news through the “office grapevine.” News should be delivered immediately, considerately and as positively as possible by the appropriate individual(s) within a company.
When appropriate, apologize for the news. Because apologies are more personal, they are usually appropriate only when the deliverer knows that the news will be very hard on the recipient.
If the news is irreversible (such as when a person is being let go or passed over for promotion), let the person know that the decision is irrevocable. Don’t waver or equivocate. It will only make the person think that the decision could be reversed upon repeal.
However, if the individual can repeal his or her case, have all the information at hand about how the repeal process will proceed. Even if a repeal process was not planned, if the recipient brings up strong, valid, logical reasons in opposition to the bad news, the reasons should be considered by all concerned parties.
It’s human nature to be disappointed when hearing unwanted news, so often a recipient will become emotional. Unless the messenger of the news wishes to become involved in such emotion, it is usually best to end such conversations quickly rather than lingering to discuss the details.
Always try to put a positive light on the situation. Even if someone has been let go from their position, for example, new opportunities are opening for them. If a promotion has not been offered, the person can still gain new skills or become more proficient in hopes of future promotion. Try to end the conversation on a positive note so the individual is not discouraged.