If you are a leader in any sense of the word, you will need to deliver bad news at some point.
You will also share good news, which is great. But delivering good news is a lot easier than delivering bad news.
If you’re not confident and controlling the situation well while delivering bad news it’s going to go badly.
You will compound the situation, making it even worse. Unless you develop this skill you’re going to help escalate the problem.
But even so, you cannot allow something to go unsaid. No matter how bad the news it that you need to deliver.
So finding a balance of understanding, confidence, tact, and compassion is just some of the necessary requirements.
For example, in the work environment you cannot allow an employee to under-perform. This pulls the whole team down a peg, causes inter-team issues, and will become more corrosive over time.
So you need to ‘grab the bull by the horns’ so to speak. Communicating to the employee about the course of action you’re going to take will not be pleasant, but it’s necessary.
It’s definitely a skill that requires so work, and is a skill that works well with other skills. Like confidence, communication, effective listening, among other social skills.
Here are some pointers to help you deliver bad news successfully, effectively, and while coming out looking your best.
Turn a Negative into a Positive
The nature of bad news means the conversation is going to have negative connotations. That can’t be avoided. But there are some ways you can take a more positive mindset. Turning some of the negative points into positive points.
For example, if you’re letting an employee go due to bad performance. Think how you can make it more positive. You can tell them how and where they will be better suited. Or explain clearly what they needed to do better.
Keep your nerves and anxious behavior at bay too. Coming across nervous gives the other person the opportunity to take over the conversation. It will also create a negative atmosphere. So be strong, work on your nerves, and take control.
Don’t Use a Prepared Script
This is real life, it’s not a stage play. You don’t know what the other person is going to say, or how they are going to react. So don’t try to script something up, sticking to it will end up making you look bad.
Sure you need some idea of what you are going to say. But if you cannot be genuine and deliver the news without stumbling around, you’re not the person for the job just yet.
Look at Both Sides of the Conversation
Being a good communicator means being open-minded and being able to look at a discussion from both perspectives. This is never more important than when delivering some bad news.
There are always at least two sides to a story. If you don’t understand a persons motivation and reasoning behind how they are performing, or behaving, you’re not seeing the whole picture.
Listening is a key skill too. Give the other person every opportunity to talk and share what they are thinking. You can almost always find common ground, or a place where you’re both happy.
Show Compassion without Emotion
Being emotional can cause all sorts of problems when you’re passing on some bad news. You already know what the news is, if it’s devastating you need to steady yourself before talking about it.
Compassion is fine, and will help. You should feel genuine compassion for the person. You wouldn’t want to be receiving bad news. Everyone woke up that morning none the wiser how their day was going to turn out.
Don’t Feel Compelled to Back Track
A lot of people start out with a determined goal when having a conversation that leaves the other person upset. But as soon as emotions or anger starts erupting, it can be easy to feel like you should back track.
This is the wrong thing to do. If you take a U-turn, you will leave the conversation kicking yourself, as the problem will not go away. You will end up having to have the conversation again, this time the momentum will be against you.
So hold strong, no matter what you are faced with. Deliver the news and stick to the plan.
No one likes giving bad news to other person. But it’s a part of life, being a leader, and part of being an honest and responsible person.
While it doesn’t necessarily get easier the more you do it. You can become better at delivering the news.
Hopeful the tips above have given you something to think about next time you find yourself in this situation.
Phil lives in England, UK, and has around 20 years experience as a professional life, career and executive coach. He started this blog to help others find and define their own self development journey. Blogging about a wide range of topics to help facilitate a better future.