The bearer of bad news: The follow-up

by Tammy Buckley11 Dec 2013
Earlier this week, HC examined how to deliver bad news - be it redundancy, performance issues, etc. But HR's work doesn't end there; there may be some fall out to tidy up, follow-up interviews to be had and more.
Industrial-Organisational psychologist Wanda Douglas, said it is important for HR practitioners to keep any promises made to the employee at the initial meeting, such as providing a copy of their contract or providing numbers for support services.
“For the most part, it is also useful to schedule a follow-up meeting with the affected individual/s to cover any issues or processes that weren’t able to be covered during the initial meeting, as well as ‘touch base’ on where they are at personally – you may find that the employee has a more rational viewpoint of the ‘bad news’ and is better mobilised to managing the situation more appropriately,” Douglas told HC.
They may still not agree or support the message that has been conveyed, but the emotional response is likely to have dissipated somewhat and progressed into a more problem-focused approach.  The employee/s may also have a number of questions that they wish to raise with you, and in this respect the opportunity for them to have a sense of control in doing this, perhaps with a support person next to them, is a positive step.”
Andy McCormack, National Service Manager of transition service provider CPI New Zealand, acknowledged the importance of remaining visible to the person concerned and available for further discussion to answer any questions or provide support.

“Closing the door, breathing a sigh of relief and avoiding the person concerned can increase resentment and anger in that person which is not helpful to anyone,” he said.
It’s important as well for HR personnel to look out for their own well-being at this time, as they too can be affected by 'bad news'.
McCormack advised keeping a 'professional head' when staff-facing, but get support and talk through the situation behind the scenes.
“Employees look to managers for a gauge on how to respond and it is important you demonstrate that you are in control – even if that’s the last thing you feel,” he added.
Douglas agreed it’s important for HR professionals to also take care of their own well-being during these times.
“By acknowledging, prioritising and consistently managing one’s physical, emotional, social, intellectual and spiritual needs, an individual will increase their capacity to respond to the often stressful demands of the workplace.  Self-care is fundamental to individual wellbeing and performance and so much of it comes back to basics – sleep/rest, diet, and exercise,” she said. “HR practitioners are so good at focusing on other people’s wellbeing – they need to ensure they direct just as much attention on themselves.”


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