How To Give Bad News At Work

How To Give Bad News At Work Publié le 28 July 2020 Par

Everybody wishes that they could walk into work every morning and hear about nothing but the latest successful company project. Unfortunately, this is just not a realistic expectation. Projects will go wrong, goals will not be reached, revenue projections will not be met. When required, successful company leaders need to know how to give bad news at work.

Delivering bad news is one of the duties that comes with leadership roles, and the inability to deliver bad news has been cited as a strong source of frustration for employees. It is an important skill that must be developed over time in order to be a strong and effective leader. There are several factors to keep in mind when considering how to give bad news at work:

  • Be direct
  • Don’t Lie
  • Choose the right environment 
  • Don’t let rumours spread
  • Prepare for negative reactions
  • Do it in person

Be Direct

Delivering bad news is never pleasant, and making the process more drawn out will not help anyone. Always be direct with bad news, and never beat around the bush. If a person is being let go, say they are being let go. If a project is being canceled, say that it is being canceled. If management is angry that sales targets were not met, say that management is angry. No hinting at or implying, assuming that employees will understand what is going on.

This is a time when it is important to state the facts, and provide all the information that you currently have regarding the situation. One of the most common issues in a workplace is a lack of trust in management on the part of employees. 57% of employees don’t trust their bosses. If you can’t be direct when giving bad news, employees will see it as proof that they should not place their trust in the management team.

Don’t Lie

Honesty is always important when running a business. It builds respect and trust between workers and leaders, which can be ruined with dishonesty. Despite this, one survey found that more than half of employees thought that their boss was dishonest.Do not lie or deny the facts or circumstances surrounding bad news and negative developments. Even if all you can say is that no decision has been made or a course of action decided upon, employees should still be told of this fact.

No one wants to be blindsided, and the fact of the matter is that people know when someone is being dishonest. Doing so will only make you lose the support of your employees and possibly give your entire organization a negative reputation. This will be very difficult to shake and can have an impact on future recruitment and therefore the continued long term success of the business.

Choose The Right Environment

When considering how to give bad news at the work, choosing the right environment to ensure that the news is delivered as effectively and appropriately as possible is key. The right environment plays an impact on the overall tone and the way in which the news can be received. If you are speaking to a large group of people, select a space where people can be comfortable and sit to explain to them what has happened. 

Conference rooms are the most obvious place to hold a meeting of this nature, provided people aren’t being crammed in on top of one another. If you need to address an especially large crowd, dozens or even hundreds of people, you have to ensure that everyone will be able to see and hear you. Some companies even rent out large auditorms with built-in sound systems. It may seem unusual to spend that amount of money just to deliver bad news, but you owe it to your employees to address them in the best way possible.

For smaller groups or one-on-one meetings, choosing a private environment has to be a main priority. In the case of bad news such as lay-offs and terminations, people deserve to have their privacy respected. An individual office or small meeting room is ideal, as long as it is away from other employees and the public. Meeting in a coffee shop across the street from the office, for example, would not be the best idea because it can leave an employee feeling exposed and vulnerable at a sensitive moment.

Don’t Let Rumours Spread

Rumours and gossip can quickly poison a work environment, and they cannot be allowed to spread. Negative developments at business rarely happen in a vacuum, meaning that employees may have a hint that some bad news may be on the horizon. This can lead to serious negativity in the workplace and a low morale. 

A strong corporate culture and workplace community is something that takes time and effort to develop, and it shouldn’t be spoiled by rumours, especially if the workplace is to continue to function. Once a decision has been made, it needs to be delivered as soon as possible. Employees deserve to know bad news right away, without any uncertainty or anxiety regarding what is going to happen. This will hopefully prevent gossip from spreading. 

Prepare for Negative Reactions

People don’t like to get bad news. It is not an enjoyable experience, so it is only natural that there will be a negative reaction. Regardless of the amount of thought you have put into how to give bad news at work, it will still be a stressful situation for all involved. Even if you have informed them of bad news as soon as possible, you have still had more time to process this information than they have. 

In business matters such as layoffs, termination and restructuring, the news means that employees will be seeing their colleagues and friends leaving the company on short notice, it makes sense that they may be upset and angry. As the person giving the bad news, it is important to not overreact and get too defensive in these situations. Employees may need to express frustration and disappointment, and the last thing they need is someone telling them that they shouldn’t feel the way that they do. Don’t take their reaction personally, and instead consider things from their perspectives.

Do It In Person

When planning how to give bad news at work, delivering it in person is difficult but it is absolutely the right thing to do. Running a successful business requires personal trust and respect among all levels, from newly hired employees and supervisors through to management and corporate leaders. Nothing will destroy this trust quicker than treating employees like they are just cogs in a machine. Bad news should always be delivered in person, not in an email or corporate update.

Given the current state of work-from-home during the COVID-19 pandemic, it does make it slightly more difficult to deliver bad news in person. However, it is still readily achievable. Employees need to know that you are still making an effort to show them the respect and courtesy they deserve. Video meeting programs and apps have allowed for meetings, conferences and collaboration between colleagues to continue, and these same programs should be utilized when it is time to deliver bad news. Is it as effective as the same as doing so in person? No, but it is the best solution under these unusual circumstances.

Delivering bad news is an unfortunate reality for business and company leaders. Planning how to give bad news at work requires real effort, so that employees understand that they are being treated with the respect that they deserve.

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