Guidelines for Delivering “Bad” News

tips for managersOne of the introductory paragraphs of a recent article began with this sentence:  “Refusing to talk about problems won’t make them go away.”  How true.  But often this is exactly what happens because people in leadership/management roles don’t know how to do it.

Think about what you want to accomplish. Gain clarity about what you hope you to achieve by the conclusion of the meeting.  List your objectives, main talking points, and desired outcomes in advance.

Choose the right time and place. Generally, you need to communicate “bad” news promptly.  If you keep people in the dark, they blame you for hiding something.  Just make sure you select the time wisely and a venue in which folks feel safe.

Be brief, clear, and direct. Don’t beat around the bush.  Get to the point.  Stick to the facts and the truth related to the situation as you understand it.  Choose your words and tone carefully.  Avoid deviating from your planned message.

Manage your own emotions. Come to terms with how you feel about the “bad” news before you need to deliver it.  Let your own emotions run their course.  You can’t afford to bring your negative energy to the table.

Demonstrate empathy. Acknowledge people’s emotions in a way that shows regard for their reaction to the news.  Don’t tell them they shouldn’t feel however they obviously feel.  Let folks know that you care.  Then move on.

Create a learning opportunity. Once people have absorbed the news, focus the conversation on what they can learn from the situation at hand.  Ask them to share ideas about how to improve things, and be sure to talk about how they, as individuals, may grow from whatever is happening.

Invite questions. If you’re smart, you’ll encourage folks to ask you whatever is on their minds.  Let them know that no question is sill or off limits.  It’s always better to be aware of what others are thinking and worried about.

Sharing “bad” news can be the worst part of your job.  Still, by learning to conduct yourself credibly, respectfully, and appropriately you can maintain strong, positive relationships with your staff, boss, Board, and/or volunteers—no matter what sort of news you deliver.

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