How to Deliver Bad News as a Manager

an aerial view of 2 men holding cups of coffee as the boss ponders How to Deliver Bad News as a Manager

When the News Is Bad
No one likes to receive bad news.  But it sometimes seems harder to deliver than to receive it.  If you do not know how to deliver bad news as a manager, it is time you learn before it is too late.  Unfortunately, too many new or inexperienced managers find it so difficult that they tend to avoid sharing bad news altogether.

How to Deliver Bad News as a Manager
By following a few simple rules of advice from experienced leaders, however, you can learn how to deliver bad news as a manager as effectively and painlessly as possible.

1. Whenever Possible, Deliver Bad News in Person
The first rule is that you should try whenever you can to give bad news in person. Why?  Because an attitude and body language of being supportive rather than accusatory can lessen the blow and can help assure the receiver that it’s not personal.

Have you ever received a “Dear John” letter?  It hurts not only because the relationship is over but also because your partner did not care enough (or have enough guts) to tell you in person.

2. Don’t Sugar Coat Bad News
The tendency is to try to soften the bad news with other good news or positive feedback. But what often happens is that you either come across as insincere or the negative message is lost in the positive.  Employee feedback is clear – they would prefer to have a straightforward conversation rather than a manager’s skirting or downplaying the issues.

3. Show Understanding
Don’t pretend that the conversation will not be difficult. Acknowledge that what you have to say will be hard to hear but that you want to be clear and truthful.

Perhaps an employee’s performance is not up to the standards you have set.  Be clear about where and how they need to improve and work on a plan together that will raise the level of performance in an acceptable time period.

Maybe the company has hit a rough spot and salaries need to be reduced across the board.  Be clear about why the cuts are necessary, how it will help, your strategy for a turnaround and how you expect to make up for the reduction within a certain time frame.

Bad news is a reality of business, but you can you can deliver bad news as a manager with authenticity and caring.

4. Be Open with Bad News
Invite questions and answer them honestly. If the recipient is not ready to discuss the bad news further at this time, schedule an opportunity to talk again.  Your willingness to share what you know and how it might be addressed will go far to build trust in your employees and make the news easier to accept.

The Bottom Line
The way the message is delivered does make a difference.  You need to learn how to deliver bad news as a manager. A little preparation can go a long way.  Be sure you are clear, direct, understanding and open.  You may find that, handled well and with empathy, a difficult conversation can become an opportunity to build a stronger relationship with an employee and improve their performance.

To learn more about how to conduct difficult conversations, download Effective Communication Skills – The Essential Ingredient in Any Interaction

 

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