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Take the bite out of bad news

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in Office Communication,Workplace Communication

Got a little shaky news to deliver? Here are tips on how to offer people a realistic view of the facts, without totally squashing their morale:

Frame news with an eye toward moving forward. For example, instead of saying “We can’t hire a new team member to help with the workload,” say “We are a strong team and with some creativity, we can figure out a way to cover the work without adding more staff.” Or instead of, “I’m not promoting you,” use “I want to keep you in your current role right now.” Those are subtle changes, but they offer a sense of hope and options.

Don’t let negativity dominate discussions. Yes, you need to talk about consequences, problems, and adverse effects. Yes, you need to let people vent, but don’t wallow in it. Find the silver lining and relay that, and focus on solutions and moving forward. Limit negative talk to no more than a quarter of the discussion, and don’t keep revisiting the negative or waste time griping.

Lay off the dramatics. Saying things like “We are all devastated,” “This hurts me as much as it hurts you” or “This is really hard on all of us” isn’t necessarily true. It’s much harder on employees who are laid off than those who will keep their jobs. And telling an employee they won’t get a bonus they were counting on definitely hurts them more than it hurts you. Skip the drama and instead be honest: “This is going to be hard to hear …” or “I have some sobering news to share.” Then share a realistic view of the situation.

— Adapted from “The Better Way to Break Bad News,” Judith Humphrey, Fast Company, www.fastcompany.com.

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