How to Deliver Bad News

Bad news comes in all forms and in small business management can be directed in many different ways: to employees, to clients, to customers, to partners – no matter to whom – bad news is demoralizing.

MW - Bad NewsEffectively delivering such news is really just crisis management. Your delivery may not change the outcome however it can certainly affect how the news is handled.

There are some strategies to take heed of when tasked with this unfortunate (but very real) obligation.

First and foremost, assess the news itself and determine the appropriate means for delivery. Is this highly sensitive to certain individuals, but not others? Perhaps a select group announcement would be appropriate.

Does this only affect one employee? Is an email personal enough? There are many situations, and many questions for each, make sure to spend some time considering the options.

Next, identify the core of the news – what is the most essential information that must be shared here, regardless of emotional or personal attachments? The goal is to share this information, no matter the obstacle.

Your delivery should always be swift and with compassion. Be aware of being too sympathetic, as it may weaken the core message. Have empathy, not necessarily sympathy.

Avoid using a script, whenever possible. People are people and we have instincts and are able to read into situations when someone is not being genuine.

The news may be bad, but you still need to maintain a humane approach that is engaging enough to the recipient to feel you have put real thought into this.

Whether delivering bad news in writing or in person, there is a great acronym that can be employed, BRRAG:

Buffer – something in between the greeting and the news itself – keeps you from being brash.
Reason – clear, concise and always before the actual refusal or “bad news”
Refusal – the news itself – may not always be a refusal, but is used symbolically here.
Alternative – provides the ‘talk them off the ledge’ speak, offering encouragement.
Goodwill Ending – employs positive reinforcement before ending the conversation.

“Recognize the situation to determine the proper approach.”

Leave a Reply