Don’t shoot the manager: How to deliver bad news

Although being the bearer of bad news comes with the job description, that doesn’t mean you can’t do it properly.

Don’t shoot the manager: How to deliver bad news

Whether it’s issuing disciplinary warnings or terminating staff, HR managers are often the bearers of bad news.

And although it is unpleasant, it is necessary. A recent article in Forbes, ‘How Great Leaders Deliver Bad News’, described a few ways to deliver bad news properly and respectfully.

Instead, have a plan for communicating this, “even though it will be uncomfortable, embarrassing, awkward, even painful.”

This plan should include the following steps:

  • Be accurate: Don’t spin or underplay it, you’ll lose your credibility and your people will think you don’t respect them enough to tell the truth.
  • Take responsibility: If you have made a mistake then you need to own up to it.

“When a leader...takes full responsibility for whatever he or she has sends a powerful signal of confidence, honour and courage.” 

  • Listen: Let people be upset, don’t try and stifle their natural reactions. You cannot expect to deliver bad news and then simply walk away.
  • Say what the next step is: This is dependent on the situation, where necessary you need to have a plan for how the problem with be dealt with and what the next step.

“The natural corollary of taking responsibility for the bad news is to say how you’re going to turn it around – and people expect and want that from their leaders.”

  • Do what you say: Every promise or commitment made needs to be kept and followed through.

“If you go through all the steps above, and then don’t take the actions needed to address the situation, you’ll probably be seen in an even worse light than if you did nothing."


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