Top 7 Tips on Delivering Bad News
By Kevin Kearns
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"It's not you, it's me." Most of us have been on the delivering side of this statement. Unfortunately, we've also been on the receiving side more than we like to admit. Bad news is, by definition, bad. Unless you are a soulless monster, you probably dislike the process. To avoid the pain of delivering bad news, leaders often strategize on the best method to use. Here are seven tips to consider when preparing for the bad news meeting.
- No Sandwiches: Avoid putting the bad news between good news. The old good-bad-good combination only confuses people. Many victims of this approach walk away remembering the good news and forget the bad. The value is lost and you will likely have to deliver the bad news again! If the news is especially bad, such as a written warning, limit the meeting to the warning. You can always cover good stuff later.
- No Dancing: Just get it over with. If the person is about to get blasted, he won't benefit from a discussion about his weekend. If he knows something is coming, he will be annoyed you are stretching it out with fake conversation. Needless chatter may also make you appear unsure of yourself. This can lead to an employee pushing to change your mind.
- No Demeaning: Use some tact. Be direct, but don't be a jerk. Donald Trump says "You're Fired!" on The Apprentice every week. In real life he admits he is more likely to say "hey, it isn't working out." Jerks make good T.V. - but they make lousy leaders.
- No Grouping: Separate the person from the problem. Even if the bad news is a termination, it does not mean the person is a loser. Make sure to stay focused on behaviors, not personalities. The person may be a bad fit for that job and can be valuable to another organization. Your job is to judge performance, not people.
- No Rushing: Allow some time for discussion. The person may need to clarify what the bad news means. If you don't allow her to do this, you will likely see her again for the same issue. Provide enough time for the person to learn from the experience.
- No Defending: Say it and be quiet. Leaders sometimes feel a need to go on and on about why they had to discipline someone. The leader thinks it is making him not look so mean - when in reality it makes him look unsure and defensive. If you believe you made the right decision, state your reasoning and be done. You give away your authority by justifying yourself too much.
- No Sharing: Avoid telling people the whats and whys. Don't make bad news worse by telling people who don't need to know. Sure, it may make you feel better to have a colleague say "you had no choice." Is feeling supported worth the news spreading to unwanted areas? If buddies didn't say anything...your organization wouldn't have the rumor issues you have now. Hire a coach if you feel a sounding board will help you.
Kevin Kearns is President of Kearns Advantage, a leadership coaching company. Kearns Advantage has a proven track record of developing strong leaders. Kevin holds a Master of Science degree in Organization Development and is a member of the Coachville Graduate School of Coaching. Subscribe to Kevins free leadership newsletter at http://www.kearnsadvantage.com.
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Article Submitted On: August 03, 2005