There is an art to delivering bad news, and a conscious leader must try to perfect the art mindfully and empathetically. Good technique might not eliminate the discomfort, but it may well soften the blow.
“Don’t let the bearers of bad news become the pallbearers of your happiness.” – Stewart Stafford
We don’t like to have bad things happen at work, or in any other walk of life for that matter. However, difficult situations present themselves to all of us, and there is really nothing that can be done about that. Unpleasant news can mean anything from laying off an employee, letting someone know that a promotion has not gone their way, or issues with a customer or client.
Whether you are part of a team or a leader in your workplace, there will be times when you will have to pass uncomfortable news on to co-workers and employees or tackle unpleasant situations with them. we may not be able to avoid this needing to happen, but we can avoid doing it in a way that makes the situation worse.
There is an art to delivering bad news, and a conscious leader, or employee for a conscious business, must try to perfect the art mindfully and empathetically. Good technique might not eliminate the discomfort, but it may well soften the blow.
So… our thought on the matter…
1. Don’t Procrastinate
Don’t put off delivering the bad news. This affects your mental state as well as the impact it will have on the person receiving the news. You cannot be productive and comfortable in your work with the issue weighing on your mind. The built-up tension will also inevitably make it harder to control your approach when you actually manage to get around to doing the deed.
2. Don’t Small Talk
So, the person is sitting in front of you. Try not to skirt around things with small talk. Keep the conversation concise and focused… get straight to the point. Not only is this respectful to the employee or team member, but it also cuts down the period of uncomfortable anticipation.
Don’t go into it cold. Be conscious that the awkwardness of the situation may cause you to falter, stutter, tumble over words or lose your train of thought. In order to make the interaction as clear and concise as possible, it won’t hurt to practice, out loud, the information you need to deliver.
4. Be Kind
Receiving bad news is, generally, much worse than being the one to give it. Be conscious that the news you are handing over to the other person, whatever you think of them, is going to have an impact on their wellbeing. Approach the subject with as much empathy and understanding as you can. Also, consider whether there is anything you can do to help them or make them feel more comfortable in that moment.
If the information you are passing on is regarding a decision you have had to make, ensure that you provide context for it. Why was the decision made? What events led to that decision? Provide any related information that might make it easier for the other party to be clear about what has happened and why.
6. Give the Subject Time
Don’t expect a reaction or response from the person to whom you are giving the news. Let them know that it is OK to take their time to process. Indeed, you might even want to suggest that they go away to process the information and come back when they have managed to formulate a response to it that they are happy with, having thought about it for a while.
7. Talk About What Comes Next
Do not leave them cold without a thing to grab hold of. Detail what comes next. Talk about how you and they might move on from the conversation and offer any guidance or advice you might have for them going forward.
By Chris Thomson
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