How to present bad news at work


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Bad things do happen from time to time and sometimes, the unpleasant task of delivering the bad news will fall upon us. Along with it comes certain responsibilities and expectations.

“Never awaken me when you have good news to announce, because with good news nothing presses. But when you have bad news, arouse me immediately for, when there is not an instant to be lost”

– Napolean Bonaparte

Key points to remember when we are in the unfortunate situation of having to break bad news: bad news

  • don’t delay in conveying the bad news
  • remember, there is a time and a place for conveying the bad news, choose them appropriately
  • give it completely, all at once
  • use simple words and a straightforward approach to convey the bad news
  • don’t sugarcoat, beat around the bush or make it look unimportant
  • give the recipients some time to digest the bad news before proceeding to analyse or discuss it
  • be sensitive to the persons who are affected by the bad news
  • if you are a manager dishing out bad news to your employees, have follow up meetings to discuss the consequences and to address their concerns
  • if you are an employee presenting bad news to your boss, set the stage and prepare him for the news as much as possible and then present him with the news, don’t just sneak it in or worse still or don’t try to cover it up

For a start, we will be required to be thoughtful and considerate of the mental state of the person about to receive the bad news. Then, we will have to have the tact and the guts to break the bad news itself. Next, we are expected to deal with the recipient’s reaction with poignancy and understanding. And finally, we are also supposed to act as psychological counselors and assuage his grief and help him in the healing process and we are supposed to do all this while trying to come to terms with the bad news ourselves. It is a difficult mission even for angels.

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