Bad news isn’t wine. It doesn’t improve with age.
- Colin Powell
Sometimes, Bringing Bad News is inevitable. But delaying it brings you nothing but more hurt. Some tips on bringing bad news and living to tell the story.
1. Be honest and transparent
Leaving out things to cover your behind will always backfire in the end. Once found out, these lies or half-truths will only serve to make things worse. Of course it’s a natural reaction to try and make bad news seem as ‘good’ as possible, but that’s not the way to go. If you tell it like it is, people will respect that.
2. Put it in context
When delivering bad news, it often helps to frame the situation and how you or your company got to be there. You can only solve an issue once you know all the parameters, otherwise there’s a chance you or someone else will fail and make it worse. On the other hand, don’t get lost into details trying to ‘fog up’ the message. First deliver the bad news, then add details, backstory and context.
3. Don’t put it off
It’s normal for anxiety to take over and a natural reaction is to procrastinate. We’ve all been there. But, as Colin Powell points out, bad news doesn’t improve with age. So get it done early, and get it done fast. The sooner you get it over with, the sooner you can move on to a solution.
4. Offer alternatives
Whenever possible, try to come up with possible solutions or alternatives. Maybe you were the first one to identify a problem and come with a solution, which will probably get you applause instead of anger. Show that you’ve thought about the issue and what it entails, and tried your best to set things right. Also, there’s no shame in asking for help if you feel you’ll need it, rather the opposite.