Delivering bad news is one of the toughest tasks that managers have to face. Bad news comes in many forms, including communicating poor employee performance, bad financial situations, expected layoffs and many other topics that aren’t easy to deal with. On the face of it, the truth might seem quite difficult to convey. However, it is the anxiety that the bad news is likely to generate and the likelihood that employees might not receive the news well that concerns most people. Employees will judge your management skills according to your actions. If you haven’t, for example, acquired a business management degree online, it will be important that you know how to handle the bad times just as well as the good times to avoid sabotaging employee productivity in the future.
How to be an effective bearer of difficult news
1. Consider your timing and medium
Being a bearer of bad news is very unpleasant. However, breaking the news in the wrong way or at the wrong time makes it even worse. Many managers nowadays prefer to relay bad news via email. Even though it might not be easy to look at your employees in the eyes and give them bad news, communicating bad news via email is quite cowardly. When and how you deliver your message makes the difference. So, how can you do it right?
The right medium
- When handling one-on-one situations, you should invite a human resources representative or other relevant person to be present in the room.
- If you are intending to make a large announcement affecting several employees, it is advisable to first break the affected employees into smaller groups, and relay the bad news to each of these groups separately. Engaging smaller groups is particularly ideal for situations where you allow the employees to ask questions or vent their frustrations.
- Under certain circumstances, it would be wise to break the news to all the employees at once – there’s no need for smaller groups. A large group setting allows you to relay the bad news to everyone, hence leaving little room for speculation, false information, and rumors.
The right timing
The right time to deliver bad news usually depends on the kind of situation you are facing. For instance, the ideal time for big company-wide announcements is in the late hours, on the days towards the end of the week. However, issues such as letting go an employee caught stealing should be done when the day starts – seeing a colleague being escorted out of the building will serve as a warning to the rest.
2. Avoid procrastination
It is common to find managers waiting for the last possible minute to convey bad news to their employees, with the hope that something might come up that would make it unnecessary to convey the news or at least make it less severe. Unfortunately, this procrastination only serves to exasperate your employees and cause unnecessary tension. Addressing the issue quickly enables your workers to deal with the situation and move forward.
3. Prepare adequately
Bad news is usually just as hard on the person relaying the message, as it is on the person receiving it. For this reason, you must ensure that you are in control of your own emotions, regarding the news, before you can try passing it on to others.
4. Ensure you deliver the message clearly and directly
You should avoid giving hints and unnecessary explanations when delivering bad news. In addition, ensure that you are as direct as possible – don’t be evasive or use a soft tone in order to lessen the impact. Sugar-coating the message or giving out too much information may lead to the employees misunderstanding the real intention of the message.
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