Insights & Opinions… from the MAC4 team.

Good tips for delivering bad news

Asian Businesswoman Leading Meeting At Boardroom Table

No one likes to deliver bad news. You can’t serve in a corporate communications or managerial role without delivering bad news at one point or another. One day you may be writing messaging to announce a reduction in employee benefits, a company merger, a restructure or reduction in force.  Being prepared and having the right materials to help deliver the news is essential.

Be sure to consider the intent behind your messaging, but also carefully consider who will deliver it. This is a great opportunity for communications teams, leaders and managers to work together to ensure these types of announcements are effectively written and delivered so they can be accepted and fully understood by employees.

Here are some tips to help plan ahead:

Enlist direct supervisors to deliver the message: Most employees prefer to hear bad news rather than read about it. As much as a manager would rather send an email, an in-person delivery is critical. By speaking directly to their team, a manager can use positive body language (standing up straight, looking employees in the eye) and a warm tone to convey transparency and empathy to soften the news.

Create comprehensive materials: Don’t send a manager into this situation without talking points. When drafting the messaging, consider what questions employees will have, and what they need to do next. Draft a robust Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document. If an unexpected question arises, suggest that the manager will come back with an answer. Your FAQ can be easily updated in real-time and stored on a shared drive so employees can refer to it as needed.

Determine the timing: When breaking news to a global workforce, choose a time when as many employees as possible can hear it simultaneously. This will mitigate the news getting out and rumors spreading before the official message can be conveyed.

Encourage managers to listen and follow up: After sharing bad news, ask managers (and Human Resources) to have an open door policy so employees can vent or ask more questions. Proactively follow up with employees to make sure they understand their next steps and are feeling supported by the organization moving forward.

By carefully writing communication materials and preparing managers, you can ensure that bad news doesn’t derail morale and that employees will walk away informed, knowing they can trust their manager and the company to be upfront.


Author: Ashlee Goodman


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