Some people say that there is no right or wrong way to do something but in this case, ZMV disagrees. Delivering bad news at work is a hard task. In order to achieve the best possible outcome, one should follow a process that ensures direct messaging delivered with compassion and patience.
No matter your role, chances are a time will come when you have to bear bad news. For the boss, she/he may have to state there are no raises or bonuses. There may be a performance issue with a specific employee that needs to be addressed. Or, the manager may not be able to grant requested time off.
Conventional wisdom tells us that the best way to deliver bad news is to stay objective and positive. But, doing so can destroy trust. The following tips are inspired by Andrea P. Howe, and Gary S. Jones who co-wrote The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook: A Comprehensive Toolkit for Leading with Trust .
Tip: Take Responsibility
Nothing shows respect more than taking responsibility for the bad news. We all know and accept that bad things happen and that people make mistakes. As the barer of the bad news, taking responsibility for the situation ensures you aren’t assigning blame. When you take responsibility, you are drawing light to the fact that it’s a big deal. You level yourself with the employee. Remember, bad news is bad news and it’s always a big deal to the recipient.
Tip: Let Them Grieve
It may seem hard to believe that staying positive, or encouraging others to do so, would be a bad idea. After all, in business and in life, people have been taught to look for the silver linings and golden opportunities that come with every challenge.
In the case of delivering bad news, it is important to show empathy by using phrases such as “I know this is sad for you,” “Go ahead and take a moment,” and “When you’re ready, we’ll continue.
Objectivity, too, isn’t all it’s cracked up to be when communicating negative news. Employees don’t want to listen to logic the moment they learn they’ve been passed over for a promotion.
Tip: Call on a Professional
When all else fails or if there is too much at stake to risk trust between parties being broken, call in a HR professional. Be willing to say ‘I don’t know but I’m hoping HR can help us.’ Using HR resources provided to you or reaching out for help will establish credibility. It will portray true professionalism and protect your company from situations getting out of hand. Emotions are difficult to predict and understand. If you want to be sure that the best possible outcome is achieved, call in a professional.
ZMV is poised to assist you and your team with coaching techniques that will help deliver that difficult conversation professionally and compassionately.
Keywords/Tags (separate with comma): Bad News, Work, Emotions, Problems, HR, Relationships, Co-workers, Boss, Employee, Trust