I’ve learned over the years that there are right ways and wrong ways to deliver bad news.
When you’re in a management position, you’re often tasked with unpleasant duties, such as reprimanding employees or letting someone go. I’ve learned over the years that there are right ways and wrong ways to deliver bad news to one’s employees.
Here are the do’s and don’ts of giving of these unpleasant conversations.
1. Do prepare yourself. Make sure you have a rough idea of what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it. Also prepare yourself for every possible outcome — the person receiving the bad news could get angry, cry, or (best case scenario) take it well. It is your job to be prepared to handle any reaction professionally.
2. Don’t joke around. When delivering bad news, cracking jokes is disrespectful and comes off as rude. It may be difficult for some people to avoid because it’s natural to want to lighten negative situations with humor, but you must avoid doing this at all costs to avoid coming off as insensitive.
3. Do give the employees the opportunity to speak their mind. Even if you know that what they have to say won’t change the situation, they’ll feel more validated knowing you heard them out.
4. Don’t beat around the bush. Get to the point, be clear and concise, while still maintaining your composure. If you have to let people go, sit down with them and be direct.
5. Do make an effort to be encouraging. If you’re telling people that their hours are being cut or they’re being laid off, you can put a positive spin on it by telling them that they have been a valuable asset to the company, and making sure they know that what is happening is not their fault.
6. Don’t be too vague. If you’re firing people, they have the right to know why. If you just let them go without providing any reason, they’ll leave confused, upset, and with a generally bad impression about you and the company.
7. Do treat them with empathy. Before you even speak to these people, think about how you would feel if you were receiving the same news. While not letting yourself become overwhelmed with these emotions, keeping them in mind will help you handle the situation with more finesse.
8. Don’t give advice unless asked. This may be another difficult one because it’s natural to want to comfort somebody who is upset as much as possible, but giving unwanted advice can cause sadness to turn into anger in a split second.
Being in a position of authority isn’t all rainbows and butterflies. A lot of the time, it requires you to do a lot of hard work, and some of that hard work is going to be playing the role of bearer of bad news. If you follow these tips, it should lighten the burden from both ends. The employee’s reaction will (hopefully) be softer, making your job easier.
Rhett Power is Best-Selling Author, Executive Coach, Columnist at Forbes, Inc. & Success. Rhett Power co-founded Wild Creations in 2007 and quickly built the startup toy company into the 2010 Fastest Growing Business in South Carolina. Wild Creations was named a Blue Ribbon Top 75 US Company by the US Chamber of Commerce and named as one of Inc. Magazine’s 500 Fastest Growing US Companies two years in a row. He and his team have won over 40 national awards for their innovative toys. He served in the US Peace Corps and is a graduate of the University of South Carolina. He now has a rapidly growing coaching and consulting practice based in Washington DC.