Tips for Delivering Bad News in a Business Setting

Tips for Delivering Bad News in a Business Setting


Tips for Delivering Bad News in a Business Setting –

It would be nice to think that success in business means you never have to deliver bad news to anyone, but unfortunately, this just isn’t the case. Every business suffers through growing pains, and this can sometimes mean delivering news that customers, employees, partners or shareholders just don’t want to hear. While there may be no way to spin the news to make it sound better, you can deliver even bad news in a way that reflects well on you and your company. Being transparent about bad news and demonstrating that you take any necessary responsibility shows those receiving the news that you have courage and integrity.

Is it Necessary?

Transparency is a good thing, but that doesn’t mean that customers or even employees need to be informed about every bump along the way. When things look bad, the first step should be brainstorming a solution. For example, if your small business is struggling with cash flow problems and you’re waiting on some invoices to be paid, you might be able to get an invoice loan, which borrows against that money you expect to come in. Depending on the size of your business, you might even be able to throw your own resources at it. For example, refinancing student loans could be done quickly and might significantly lower your monthly payments with a longer time to pay back. There might be other ways for you to save money to shore up the company for a little while as well.

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Be Direct –

Maybe there are money problems that you can’t ride out or maybe your bad news has nothing to do with money. When you do deliver the bad news, you should try to be direct. It can be tempting to equivocate so the recipient of your news doesn’t take it as badly, but this can lead to mixed messages. Whether you are letting a vendor know their services are no longer needed, letting an employee go or announcing an unpopular but necessary change, be compassionate but firm in your delivery.

Explain the Rationale –

Being direct does not mean being abrupt, and people generally respond much better to bad news if they understand the reasoning behind it. Explaining the processes that led to the decision can help. If you were not the final decision maker and you disagree with the decision but still must deliver the news, in most cases, you should keep your misgivings to yourself. You might have to acknowledge that it was not the news hoped for or that things did not land where you hoped they would, but it’s your job to ultimately keep things positive.

Control the Narrative –

Keep in mind that there is a difference in letting people blow off steam if they are unhappy about bad news and getting into a back-and-forth debate about it. The former may be necessary, but the latter is a mistake. You might allow for a brief period of venting and then shift to the future, pointing out the positives that lie ahead and how you hope to reach them. As a leader, others will look to you to calibrate their own reactions.

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