“Bad news isn’t wine. It doesn’t improve with age.” Colin Powell
Delivering bad news does not have to be scary.
Unfortunately, your best customer who is the sponsor for the project you manage just placed a freeze on all future project work. This is a big deal. One-quarter of your organization’s projected earnings for the next six months are tied to those projects. You are upset and you know your management will be upset too. You also know that it is your responsibility to deliver the bad news.
This is not your favorite type of communication, but you have skills, and you are going to handle it. The first thing that you do is take some time and process this information yourself. Then you schedule time with your manager for a discussion. This helps to ensure that you will be calm, and your thoughts will be organized as you deliver the bad news.
This is an example of you preparing yourself emotionally.
Before your appointed meeting time, you see your manager walking toward the cafeteria. You could tell her the bad news right now. But you know better, this is not the right time and place for the discussion. You simply advise her that you have set aside some time on her calendar for that afternoon.
This is an example of you paying attention to timing and setting.
As you prepare to deliver the bad news you decide to present three other very qualified customer leads who have the potential to bring in new business within the next few months. In this way you are not just dumping bad news on your manager, you are also bringing some potential solutions. Perhaps together you can go into problem-solving mode.
This is an example of you identifying solutions.
As you walk into her office, you search for something positive to say. You hate to just jump into the bad news (even though you have brought potential solutions). You do not butter her up to improve her mood by saying something like, “You can really tell that you have been working out.” You also do not go for a laugh by making jokes such as “Good news, we can cut back on overtime.” In this instance, you realize it is not time for making up positive news.
This is an example of you appropriately deciding how to focus on the positive.
In the past, you would have been much more upset about this news. Right now, it is not as upsetting to you as you know that you will be leaving the organization very soon. Despite this, you are not insensitive to the feelings of others. As you discuss this challenge with your manager you do note that you understand just how upsetting this news is for her.
This is an example of you being genuine.
What you just did was follow five recommended steps for delivering bad news:
Step 1 – Prepare yourself emotionally.
Step 2 – Identify solutions.
Step 3 – Pay Attention to Setting and Timing.
Step 4 – Be genuine.
Step 5 – Where appropriate, focus on the positive.
Way to go!