If You Have To Give Bad News…

Courtesy of Dmytro Zinkevych/ Shutterstock

You may find that you have to give ‘bad’ news in these times. It may be to an employee, a client, a contractor, a family member, etc.

If you have a tendency to put it off it is because it makes you feel uncomfortable (another deeper reason you might put it off is because having that difficult conversation activates for you a deeper concern about it having been your fault). If you have been putting it off because you don’t know exactly what to say, see below for some universals that will help you frame the conversation. (And If you have been putting it off because its a way of not feeling bad about yourself, then the idea is to make a plan to learn from your mistakes so you won’t have to put yourself in a situation again where you have to procrastinate to distance yourself from feeling bad about yourself!)

Some guidelines:
1. Say what you mean and mean what you say – Don’t be vague and indirect so that they have to try to figure out what you are saying. Be direct and clear. Say it in your utmost respectful tone.


2. “Match” then Move – Never just try to be pollyanna about it. Don’t try to move in right away with false reassurances or just present the rosy side of the picture – (you think these are intended for the other person but mostly they are intended to help you feel better.) The person is entitled to have disappointed or angry feelings about the news you are giving them. The first thing to do is to empathize with what they are feeling (“I can only imagine that this is very frustrating/disappointing for you…”) When you accurately reflect their feelings you have more credibility with them, then they are likely to be open to what you will say next that will try to help them move forward.


3. Contextualize – The recipient of the news will definitely be wondering “why” the events are unfolding the way they are – Give the reasons why, tell them how this decision was arrived at, contextualize your news in the the overall big picture, or provide a comparison to what’s going on in similar relevant contexts.


4. What will happen – Be very clear, simple, and concrete about exactly what will happen next – what you will do, what they can expect to happen, what they need to do, what logistical events will need to take place, etc.


5. Have a forward moving message – Have a message that you will tell yourself that will enable you to stay motivated. If you have a message about how and when things will get better then you can offer that. Pay more attention to the future picture you paint for yourself in your mind – Stay focused on it and keep moving towards making it true.


“The best way to predict the future…is to create it” Peter Drucker