Delivering Bad News

 In Bad News

How to Deliver Bad News

The moment you have been fearing is here: You are giving critical feedback to a customer or employee. The conversation turns out to be a disaster, despite your best efforts: the customer or employee gets defensive and your relationship becomes strained.

You may have been in a similar situation or will be faced with one in the future. You can save your relationships with colleagues by learning how to communicate bad news openly, honestly, and compassionately.

Before we start, here is a quick checklist that you need to keep in mind

Negative Message Checklist

  • A clear goal
  • Clear instructions from the supervisor (legal counsel).
  • Clear understanding of the message
  • Understanding of reader/audience
  • A clear understanding of protocol and procedure
  • Clear, neutral opening
  • Clear explanation, without guilt or culpability
  • Clear statement about impact or negative news
  • Clear redirect without any reminders of bad news
  • Clear results that include acceptance of or action on bad news

These are some tips to deliver bad news

1. Prepare yourself emotionally

Anyone who hears bad news can feel stressed. It is important to be prepared before you experience this stress.

When you are delivering bad news, it is important to know your strategy. It’s easy to get emotional and heated. Negative news can sometimes make people feel treated badly. They may want to argue and fight back. As a person who is trying to convey the message, this can be dangerous as you may hit different trigger moments. Controlling your emotions is key to avoiding potential conflicts and not igniting them. Preparing for what you will say is important. This includes possibly writing a few opening sentences. Preparing for their reaction as well as your response to it is important.

bad news delivery2. Identify Solutions

Next, you need to find solutions if they are available. While you may not be in a position to fix the problem, it is possible to minimise your upset. Remember why you need it.

Nobody likes to hear bad news. however it will be easier if you feel justified in giving it. As much as possible, remember why you are doing this. If you aren’t the original decision maker, learn how and why it was made and the reasoning behind it. Seeing a different perspective may help you identify new solutions. Also, consider other options. It is important to have a clear understanding of the reasons for what you are about to do.

Before you meet with another person, try to find multiple solutions. This is important because once the meeting starts, you might get emotionally involved and find it difficult to think of solutions under pressure. If you are prepared with solutions, it will show professionalism and that you are focused on the future.

3. Pay attention to setting and timing

If You don’t have to tell a group of people bad news, you can choose a private place for your conversation. The other person can respond and deal with it in their own way, which is crucial for helping them move forward. Make sure you don’t get interrupted by your phone.

Pay attention to timing. Sometimes it’s best to give bad news quickly, but not skipping the important preparation that we just discussed. Bad news can spread rumors and damage your reputation.

Email is an excellent way to communicate quickly, but it can also be a bad channel for sending out bad news. To communicate with empathy, it is best to meet in person. You can use the right tone and body language, but these subtle signals are lost when you talk on the phone.

4. Be authentic

Be authentic and compassionate when delivering the message. Treat the other person with respect, dignity, and compassion. Your attitude and your message are both important aspects of this conversation. Be honest, open, and clear.

If you are the one responsible, explain how your actions contributed. You can build trust by being open about your role and apologising. Do not try to justify or blame others for your actions. This is not ethical and can cause you to lose your reputation.

If you are going to give bad news, be sure to validate the feelings of the other person.  After the other person has calmed down ask him questions. Active listening skills are necessary to understand and hear what he has to say.

5. When it is appropriate, focus on the positive

Find a positive side to the situation if possible.  Be sensitive though as it may not be productive to highlight positives if the news you are delivering is really bad.

6. Take the initiative to solve the problem.

The most important step to effectively deliver bad news is to address the root cause. It is crucial to resolve the root cause of the problem. This not only solves the problem but also restores trust.

In a transparent manner, leaders can be a little more aggressive in finding the root cause of problems. This restores trust and increases productivity.

Last words

No matter what approach you take, your message must be clear and concise, and with respect for both the receiver and the organisation. Having your team learn more about the different methods and skills required to deliver bad news will help your business thrive. We all want to deliver good customer service, however it is only as good as the complaint handling abilities of your team. To learn more or to have a course tailored to suit your team contact our staff for more assistance.

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