0061 – What’s the Best Way to Deliver Bad News


How do you deliver bad news to someone that you care deeply about?

Teaser Bullets

by the end of this episode you’ll learn:

  • Why do we hate giving bad news?
  • The two ways people usually deliver bad news
  • How to prepare to give bad news
  • Tips to deliver bad news

Describe the problem

It’d be super nice if every relationship–romantic, platonic, professional or otherwise–was non-stop puppies and giggles and rainbows. But the hard, cold truth is…well, sometimes you have to deliver the hard, cold truth. What do you do when it’s time to ‘fess up? What’s the best way to be the bearer of bad news? And is it even worth the caveat of “don’t kill the messenger” if the news is REALLY bad?

Segment #1

  • Why do we hate giving bad news?
    • Albanian JOurnalism | Top 4 Tips for Breaking Bad News to Employees
      • Delivering bad news is one of the toughest tasks that managers have to face. Bad news comes in many forms, including communicating poor employee performance, bad financial situations, expected layoffs and many other topics that aren’t easy to deal with. On the face of it, the truth might seem quite difficult to convey. However, it is the anxiety that the bad news is likely to generate and the likelihood that employees might not receive the news well that concerns most people.
  • The two ways people usually deliver bad news
    • Matters of the Heart | Two Ways to Deliver Bad News
      • Beliefs about the delivery of bad news usually follows two lines of thinking: 1) the news is bad enough, the delivery should at least be compassionate, 2) you can’t do anything about it, so just get it over with.
  • How to prepare to give bad news
    • MindTools.com | Communicating Well Under Pressure
      • Pay Attention to Setting and Timing – Unless you have to deliver bad news to a group, choose a private setting for your conversation. Privacy allows the other person the freedom to respond and cope in a way that’s comfortable for them, which is a key part of helping them to move forward. Turn your cell phone off, and make sure that you won’t be interrupted.
      • Next, pay attention to timing. It’s often best to deliver bad news promptly, but without skipping the essential preparation that we have just covered. “Sitting” on bad news can start rumors, and it might also damage your reputation.
    • ResultsPositive | Delivering Bad News on a Project
      • Don’t: Delegate bad news. Again you are the leader or “CEO” of your projects and you are accountable to the stakeholders (your board of directors) so you should be the voice of the project.

Segment #2

  • Tips to deliver bad news
    • Bob Barron.com | How to Deliver Bad News – The Post I Wish I Had Read a Year Ago
      • In person – This should be a no-brainer, but if you are conflict-averse, it will be very difficult.  Delivering bad news is very emotional and your non-verbal communication has a huge impact.  Not over the phone.  Definitely not by email.  Do it in person.
      • Decisive – Being decisive is hugely important when delivering bad news.  The one receiving the news needs to know that the decision has been made – period.  That may sound harsh, but it is not.  The alternative is to allow for wiggle room.  Wiggle room gives false hope, and that is truly harsh.  When it is time to deliver the news, look the person in the eye and give a straight-forward and decisive delivery.
    • Blog.Capital.Org | 7 Helpful Tips for Conducting Difficult Conversations with Employees
      • Empower the Employee – Give the employee an opportunity to present their side or to address the points you are making from their point of view. Show the employee your willingness to listen to what they have to say and they will be less likely to feel threatened or defensive.
      • Observations, Not Absolutes – Sensitive issues should be presented as observations made from your perspective, not as absolutes. Observations can leave less room for argument in the discussion. However, be certain to only leave room for negotiation if you are willing to consider it. In cases of a termination, maintain a firm and direct stance without room for argument.
      • Accountability without Blame – Provide context when framing an issue that needs to be addressed. If a specific goal has been missed, suggest circumstances that may have contributed to the situation. The employee is still responsible for overcoming those obstacles, where possible, to meet the goal. Knowing management understands the situation beneath the surface will motivate the employee to improve going forward.


Final Thoughts:

  • Elijah’s Thoughts
  • Sarah’s Thoughts


In Closing

In closing, on behalf of my fantastic co-host, Sarah J. Storer, author of “How to be Dumped: The Definitive Breakup Guide” I want to thank you for spending time with us today, now let’s continue the conversation at relationspodcast.com/[ShowNumber] and:


Final Question:

[Create a question based on the total show, or a quirky incident that happened during recording]?

Tell us about it in the comment section and let’s see if we can’t continue to relate to one another. We’ll talk soon.

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