Every manager, at some point in time, will be in the position where he or she needs to deliver bad news. Perhaps budget cuts are requiring the company to downsize, or maybe an employee won’t be getting the promotion that he or she had been expecting.
This is never an easy situation to be in, particularly when you know that the information will likely hurt people that you truly care about. All you can do is try and minimize the negative impact and keep morale as high as possible.
Keep in mind the following do’s and don’ts the next time you find yourself the bearer of bad news:
Do respect your employees’ intelligence
Your employees are smart enough to understand that budget cuts have implications, and that the company needs to make tough decisions for its bottom line. Be straightforward about the process and acknowledge factors like: who the decision makers were, what alternatives were considered, and why the specific course was decided upon. Even if your employees don’t like the particular outcome, they can likely understand and respect the rationale.
Don’t try to evade the issues
Your employees will likely—and rightfully—have concerns. It is your job to address them to the best of your ability. Be honest about what you know and what you don’t. When faced with a hard reality, lying or sugarcoating often just makes matters worse. Not to mention, if employees feel as though you aren’t being truthful with them, they will have less confidence in the company and future decisions.
Do make sure employees feel heard
Make sure that you allow adequate time for employees to ask questions and voice their concerns. If you run out of time when delivering the news, let employees know that your door is open, or that the conversation can continue at a specific place and time.
Don’t forget to empathize
Expect that your employees are going to be feeling a flood of emotions, which may vary between them. Some might be angry, others sad, and many may feel lost or insecure. You will need to present yourself as someone who cares about and understands their feelings and their future. Most importantly: Be human. By sounding overly-corporate you will come across as unrelatable and exacerbate the negative situation.
Do give a sense of next steps
Let employees know what they can expect in the short and long-term. When will changes start to be implemented, when will they start to be impacted by those changes? Most importantly, you want to focus on the future. Doing so will help employees feel more empowered when they might otherwise feel as though they have no control.
One Final Word of Advice
When it comes to delivering bad news to your employees, the best you can do is communicate transparently and respectfully. You want to be optimistic about the road ahead, but make sure that you are first realistic about the situation at hand. Doing so will help employees feel assured and connected to both you and to the company.