Part1: Delivering Bad News to Employees
Delivering bad news, no matter how hard you try, can and will never be easy. You can’t make words that mean
something—bad—sound like something good. Never!
The worst part about delivering a bad news message to an employee is the fear of the reaction. You don’t want the person to give an intense emotional or physical reaction, in which case, you would feel really bad.
Business studies offer courses that have a chapter solely dedicated to this subject. In all of them, you will notice one word that repeats itself: buffer. Buffer is basically like a shock absorber. I feel that making the buffer one specific thing would be wrong, because to be honest there are many ways you can buffer bad news and hence prevent a major reaction.
So, here are six ways to buffer a bad news that you need to deliver, though reluctantly, and the other person doesn’t want to hear.
- Pre-Warnings: A manager with a professional approach would never fail to warn an employee before the bad news can happen. For example, if an employee is to be laid off because of a merger, you can mention the possibility of this before the contract closes. Or, if an employee might lose his job due to his poor performance, you are required to clearly state his mistakes and lacking as soon as they appear. That way, the shock is reduced because they know what to expect.
- Avoid Delays: Never “sit on it” just because you feel things might change. The situation could worsen should you try to keep the bad news. Never let it accumulate!
- Document it: To keep the superiors from having a shock as well, you might want to keep detailed records of any act that has to do with a bad news. Documented performances, monitoring tapes, meetings, or reviews, provide solid evidence that can be used while delivering the message to the employees as well as the upper management.
- Be Honest and Direct: Not being clear about what you are trying to say or missing out pieces of the information would only exacerbate the situation. It’s best to be honest and direct when you are delivering a bad news. Don’t skimp on any details and justifications that support your decision. Employees expect you to justify and clearly state why you saying what you are saying. If you are not being straightforward enough, you will get a comeback such as, “Excuse me,what? Why?” You don’t want to hear this because it tends to increase stress levels and worsen the situation. Even before they get a chance to retort that response, ask them to first listen to your clear and solid reasons and justifications.
- Set the Scene: You can partially prepare them for what’s to come by setting up the scene. Don’t make it a casual delivery because it is not a casual message. Tell the employee you want to speak with him later on at a specified time. Or, you can use a formal letter on the company letterhead for a warning. Formally delivering the message or the warning will give them the hint that “okay, this is something serious”.
- Don’t Hold Yourself Responsible: If you center the message around you and what you “feel” or “think”, be ready to be blamed for what’s happening. Involve other bodies that also play a role in the bad news such as the company, company rules, the superiors, the system, and most importantly, the person you are delivering the message to. This is something you are obliged to do, not something you “feel” you should be doing.
This is part 1 of a 2 part series. Visit us on Thursday for "Part 2: Public Speaking on Difficult Topics."
William Ford has been serving educational realm for many years and his immense experience has finally landed him at Research Paper Town where he gladly employs his expertise to help learners from across the globe.