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Best Practices For Delivering Bad News


Have you ever had to give bad news to someone and it not go well? Did the other person get upset or react in a way you did not expect? Think about a time where someone had to give you bad news. What do you think could have made the biggest difference in how you would have received it? When it comes to communicating with others about something hard or bad there are some very clear tactics that you can use to make sure that it goes as well as possible. Pay attention to your body language and tone as these play a much larger role in communication than we may think. Following these 10 Commandments will help to prepare you for these tough talks.


Always Treat People with Respect

When you treat people with respect and appreciate their efforts they are more willing to go even further for you. It makes as much sense to treat someone with respect for the sake of your business as much as for moral reasons. Respect is key for optimal performance in all areas of our lives.

Transparency is Key

Be straight forward with bringing the facts to the table for your sake and others’. In today’s technological world it is near impossible to be able to hide anything for long. Eventually what you try to avoid disclosing will come to the surface and will end up being a lot worse for you and your business than if you had come forward with all the facts in the first place.

Delay Will Cause Dismay

As soon as you know that you need to give the bad news do so immediately. Otherwise the situation can further escalate as it was not dealt with in the most timely manner. Don’t give the situation an unreasonable amount of time before delivering your bad news. Along with the other steps in this guide, it will greatly improve their ability to accept your news.

Justification to Improve Communication

When communicating bad news to others it is important to be clear and specific so that the other party can make improvements or to otherwise understand why a decision was made.

A Silver Lining Can Ease the Sting

Often your bad news will be better received when you can also present options or other kinds of feedback that can turn a negative into something more positive. Positive feedback alongside the bad news will boost motivation and confidence that applying themselves to your solutions will work for both you and them. It also helps to be clear on what might only be short term concern.

Surprise is Demise

Give as much warning as possible so that they can be as prepared to talk about the news with you. Allowing them to prepare for the conversation will help them to communicate with you more successfully as well. Surprises will not only take them off guard but often will not render you the most streamlined results.

Put It In Writing or They’ll Come Back Fighting

Having good records will help you to keep track of situations, how they developed, what escalated them, and will help to illuminate applicable solutions. Make sure to also keep clear written communication with others in situations where it is necessary.

Solutions or Bust

Most situations can be resolved so make sure to put focus on what can be done instead of only looking at the obstacle or problem. Plan ahead of time what strategies will work, what steps they can take, and how you can approach these potential solutions in a constructive way.

Consider Your Extended Audience

Think ahead on how this could affect others of your team before presenting the news. Word will travel outside of just the people you tell it to and others may experience a trickle down affect of the consequences.

Seeing It Through to the End

It is not only beneficial for you to communicate and track the progress they make towards fixing the problems, but also for them. As they see their own progress they will feel more motivated in making further strides towards even better results. Laying out clear goals gives them the opportunity to improve upon themselves and their own situation. Seeing the results of their efforts will keep them on a forward track to resolving the original issue.


Trushar Mody is a leading trainer for Encore Consulting Group. As a warehouse of knowledge, he incorporates his more than 25 years of professional experience into his passion for sharing his wisdom with others. He is a thought leader in the field of Emotional Intelligence (EI) as it applies to business success.

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