Do’s and don’ts of breaking bad news

Whether it’s a customer, employee, co-worker or boss, someday you will need to share some not-so-ideal news. Here’s how to do it:

Do have a solution in mind. Share at least one idea for dealing with or overcoming the issue.

Don’t lose your cool. Even if the situation feels like a crisis, stay calm and collected, and don’t be overly dramatic. Be a source of comfort, not a source of stress.

Do share the news as soon as possible. If you wait, it could make things worse. As soon as you have the details, fill people in.

Don’t sugarcoat the situation. Be honest, stick to the facts and explain what you know. Answer what questions you can, but don’t make any assumptions or draw any conclusions.

Ads_MGR Handbook D

Do watch your language. Phrases like “I have bad news” or “We have a problem” put people in a negative state of mind. Instead, say something like “We have a challenge to overcome” or “We need to come up with a new solution.”

Don’t let negativity take over. The other person may feel defeated, or upset. Let the person vent, but don’t wallow. Move the conversation in a more positive direction by talking about solutions and options.