Don’t Kill The Messenger (It’s Me): How To Deliver Bad News To Your Employees

In these challenging economic times, it is far more likely that you, as a manager, will have to share some bad news with a colleague or a direct-report.

Not an easy thing to do.

Whether it is a performance appraisal, a layoff, a termination or a consolidation, there are some prudent things that you can do to prepare for this awkward scenario:

  • Spend some time thinking about your opening line. Tone, inflection and brevity can communicate far more than a circuitous, nervous fumpher.
  • Be very aware of your body language: big smiles and close proximity could contradict your theme.
  • Be candid and direct. Listeners can smell bullsh_t immediately.
  • For terminations of potentially volatile personalities, have a 3rd person present. Even for even-keeled individuals, it is not a bad idea to have an HR person present.
  • Spend time, in advance, anticipating the 10 most likely questions that your listener is going to ask…and have answers ready. Clarity and comprehensiveness go a long way.
  • Don’t discuss what might/will happen to other associates. This is a legal tripwire that can cause you problems (plus, it’s really not the purpose of your meeting).
  • Close your door, shut your phone and turn-off your Blackberry. These interruptions will affect the flow of this very tense meeting…and make it worse.
  • Speak in a clear, soft and non-confrontational manner.
  • Avoid personalizing any part of the message.
  • Don’t linger or prolong this interaction. Know what you want to say, say it, respond to questions and conclude.
  • Make sure that your closing line/call to action is clear, professional and thoughtful.
  • Even if you have mixed feelings about this message, NEVER suggest that you disagree with this “corporate” decision. You are not there to make friends.
  • Today’s Tip: No one likes to be the bad guy…and no one likes to be the bearer of bad news. But, sometimes it is necessary. Don’t run away or plaster a fake smile on your face. Prepare your message, deliver it candidly in a neutral manner and get through this with dignity and professionalism. It’s the only way.

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