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How to Deliver Bad News

Thursday, March 12, 2015   By Mike Reddy


Delivering bad news is never easy, but there are some things you can do to soften the blow and give the message tactfully and empathetically. Ideally your bad news will be delivered with skill so that the recipient ultimately continues in a positive relationship and supports the decision.

Bad news should never be a surprise, nor should it be on a delay. If the bad news is related to poor performance, an employee should be apprised and offered the opportunity to improve. If they haven’t been told, the situation will likely escalate from bad to worse. Problems with clients or lack of sales should be reported to management immediately allowing issues to be addressed positively and avoiding worsening conditions.

Bad news should always be delivered truthfully. There should be no inkling of a cover-up of any facts. Bad news is best presented in writing and should provide a detailed listing of supporting reasons, explanations and justification. Everyone within the company wants to understand the reasons behind the bad news.

Bad news should always emphasize positives and present potential solutions. Though it may be difficult to find the positive in a light of layoffs, corporate takeovers or budget reduction, a positive does exist and should be brought to light. Solutions are often just as difficult to find in bad news but it does focus attention on the future and the ability to make improvements.

Finally, bad news should consider all those affected, not only those directly affected like the employee who loses his or her job, but also families, customers and colleagues who hear the news. Tact and sensitivity are keys to a clear message. Respect and dignity should always be at the forefront of any bad news message. In closing a bad news message it is important to shift the focus from the bad news and turn it on improvement and positive ongoing relationships in the future.

Bad news messages will never be pleasant to deliver, but these business coaching tips should keep you on track to presenting the message as positively as possible with clarity, respect, tact and goodwill.

Mike Reddy is a Chartered Accountant, business coach and advisor helping businesses in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Gold Coast to easily increase their profits and cash flow. He is currently President of the North Sydney Chamber of Commerce, a Regional Councillor for Sydney North East and a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants Sydney leadership team. As well as advising businesses, Mike presents business development seminars and webinars and is regularly contacted by the media to comment on small business matters. You can connect with him on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.