Don’t Sugar-coat Bad News

No one enjoys delivering bad news; however, there are times when it must be done, by you, to bring about change or address difficult situations. How you present and deliver the news will directly affect how employees react to it and ultimately accept it.

There is no approach that will guarantee acceptance and full acceptance but there are a few guidelines you’d be wise to consider.

Do this:

  • Focus on the decision and explain clearly why it’s happening.
  • Rehearse what you’re going to say with a friend or colleague who can give you feedback on how you come across to ensure the “words and the music” align.
  • Demonstrate empathy and compassion – be thoughtful, caring and considerate of what people will have to do in light of the change.
  • Be clear, firm and direct.
  • If the change represents a setback or major change, confidently convey the information and leave no room for misinterpretation.

Don’t do this:

  • Show weak body language such as poor eye contact, fidgeting, sweating, crying, crossed arms and slumping shoulders.
  • Ensure your nonverbal cues aren’t implying something different from what you’re saying.
  • Pretending the issue is not actually as bad as it is. Telling people not to worry because it will somehow work out fine in the end.
  • Avoid mixed messages and don’t sugar-coat the news. The more confusing the message, the more difficult it is to digest the information and to respond appropriately.

Remind yourself that putting off what needs to be done often only makes the situation worse. As a leader, its your job to lead through the good and the bad times.

Once you embrace unpleasant news, not as a negative but as evidence of a need for change, you aren’t defeated by it. You’re learning from it. Bill Gates

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