Bad news isn’t easy to deliver. It’s even harder to hear. Advising a client that you will miss a deadline, needing to reprimand a subordinate, and/or providing feedback in a team-based business environment are some examples.
Luckily, there are research-supported ways to deliver bad news that make it a little easier to do so. Here is some insight into how to deliver bad news in a business environment and different things to keep in mind.
Bad news is a threat to survival
Human beings have what is known as a ‘negative bias’. That is, we pay more attention to bad outcomes because in our brains, we see negative news as threatening. This is why some people are not as reasonable as others when hearing bad news. Therefore, any which way you tell them the bad news, it must be done in a way to minimize the blow.
When people hear bad news presented with a more positive intonation of voice, they do not react in a defensive manner compared to when being given the same info in a negative manner. For example, instead of ‘criticizing’, try for ‘identifying areas of improvement’. Provide negative news in a way that is not meant as a personal attack on the person hearing it.
The best way to deliver bad news effectively is to do so with factual reasons backing it up. By leveraging facts to support what you are saying, this makes the info delivered less personal. For example, let’s say your team did not perform well and a client was lost because of it. If you are an internet marketing company for example, identify why the client quit after a certain marketing campaign and what needs to change in the future. Keep the conversation moving and do not portray a loss like this as personal or as a betrayal.
Showing you care actually goes a long way. After delivering the bad news, ask about how they feel. Create a constructive discussion that provides them an outlet to express what they need to express and that does not make it a one-way attack. Doing this will also help you understand how they are reacting to the news.
Depending on the news, it may be entirely unexpected. When you are gauging the recipient’s reaction, it’s because you want to identify a way to help them. Identify ways to make them feel motivated to improve their situation. A person who does not act feels defeated. If they are communicating a sense of defeat, encourage determination with something positive. Long after the conversation is done, re-visit the subject with them and make sure they are alright.
Bad news in a business environment is tough. It’s oftentimes coming to terms with failures that can seem personal.
It’s never going to be easy to hear or deliver but being empathetic and understanding in this type of situation can be very worthwhile. Recipients need to feel secure, heard, and valued. Even with setbacks, corrections, and worse, improvement should always be the focus.