The Good News is YOU have BAD News

Filed under Best Practices, Communication | Posted by PMStudent

It is going to happen. You will have to deliver bad news. Not all of your projects are going to run perfectly. When they don’t you want to do a good job delivering bad news. How you deliver the news can make all of the difference in the world in terms of what happens next, how you are perceived as a leader and the strength of your professional relationships.

Consider the following scenario and then take the short quiz on how you will react. You have just learned that a key customer is putting all future project work with your company on hold. This customer contributed 25% of your organizations earnings for the next six months. This news is very upsetting to you and it will be upsetting to your management as well.

1. What is the first thing you do:

A. Text your manager that you have bad news and that you need to talk ASAP.

B. Take the afternoon off and get a massage or meditate to calm yourself down.

C. Take some time to process this information yourself and then schedule time with your manager for a discussion.

D. Do nothing and wait for a few days, perhaps the customer will decide to continue with future purchases as planned.

2. As you prepare to deliver the news you decide to present three other very good ideas for projects with other customers, all of which have the potential to bring in new business within the next few months. This is an example of:

A. You overstepping your boundaries as you are not in charge of proposing project ideas.

B. You bringing solutions while communicating bad news.

C. You trying to deflect the bad news with other potentially good news.

D. You tying to protect your job and earn your next promotion.

3. Before you begin to discuss the bad news about the customer and the now on hold projects, you decide you want to say something positive so you say to your manager:

A. “You can really tell that you have been working out.”

B.”Good news, we can cut back on overtime.”

C. “Soon we will not have to deal with one of our most demanding customers.”

D. Nothing, you do not have an appropriate positive comment to make.

4. The truth is that although the news about the customer is upsetting, you are about to give notice, so you are not that concerned. Despite this you say to your manager

A. “I can see where this is very upsetting for you.”

B. “I don’t know about you, but this is devastating to me.”

C. “Maybe this is the wake up call we needed.”

D. “I will leave you alone to start coming up with solutions.”

5. You happen to see your manager walking to the cafeteria. You decide to:

A. Tell her the bad news as you walk with her to the cafeteria.

B. Advise her that you have scheduled some time with her that afternoon.

C. Approach her at the crowded sandwich station and tell her the news.

D. Follow her to her table in the cafeteria and tell her while she eats.

Looking forward to reading your thoughts. Be sure to read next week when we discuss the answers and take a closer look at how to present bad news at work. In the meantime if you would like to learn more and earn a PDU check out ‘How to Deliver Difficult News’ over on, there is an audio version: and a video version:


One thought on “The Good News is YOU have BAD News

  1. Omar

    Nice Post. It does a good job of walking a user through the difficulties of managing tough conversations. I’ve learned in my career that it’s always better to be honest and quick when it comes to bad news. Bad news travels faster than good news and the worst feeling in the world is for a manager to be surprised by their manager about why their project/revenue is not producing. My results are B, C, D, A , B. Was not sure about Question #4.

    Omar Morales, PE

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