The Good News About Delivering Bad News
“Better to have bad news that’s true than good news that’s made up.”
— Eric Ries
Delivering bad news is never easy, but it’s an inevitable part of life and work. Whether a project has failed, a budget cut, or a stinging staffing change announced, finding the right words to break the news to your team or colleagues can be challenging. However, there is good news about delivering bad news. With the right approach, you can minimize the negative impact and even turn a difficult situation into an opportunity for growth. Here are three benefits coupled with the right approach:
Objectivity – To successfully deliver bad news, you must be honest and direct. Don’t sugarcoat the situation or try to hide the truth – people will eventually see through smoke screens. Instead, be clear and upfront about what has happened and what the consequences are or will be. Doing so will help your team or colleagues understand the situation and allow them to express their genuine feelings. Remember, honesty creates trust – and trust will help everyone work through difficult times.
Empathy – People appreciate sincerity and compassion. Humanizing a difficult condition creates mutual respect and a deeper understanding of the issue, allowing you to move on. If you can put yourself in the shoes of people who will be receiving the bad news, they are more likely to be sincere with their reactions and concerns – which could be invaluable in salvaging a relationship.
Accountability – Instead of just delivering bad news and leaving it at that, offer suggestions for resolving the “bad news” condition, and bust bureaucracy if it impedes doing the right thing. However, be honest with the limitations of the alternatives you present, take ownership of what you can do to help – and do it quickly! Doing so will give your team a sense of connectedness with you and your business, and shows you are ready to help now. Demonstrating your accountability will help your team become even more accountable!
Delivering bad news can be challenging, but it’s not the end of the world. With the right approach, it can be done in a way that minimizes negative impact, even turning a tough situation into an opportunity for growth and learning. By being objective, empathetic, and accountable, leaders can help others, and themselves, navigate difficult situations – with everyone coming out stronger on the other side!