I have bad news …. No, not really.  But let’s talk about how to deliver bad news.

Have you met a person yet who loves to be the bearer of bad news? If you have, they are an anomaly and dare I say – twisted?  The reality is, like it or not, bad news and difficult messages need to be communicated regardless of how uncomfortable it can be for a person.  How does one find the courage to do it?

Sure, we can just put the bad news right out there.  “We’re downsizing, so you’re out of a job.” “Our budget has been reduced by 10% so we need to tighten our belts.” “Your territory is changing and you are going to have to give up some of your best accounts.” “You’re being moved to a different team.”  “We’re not replacing Joe, so we are all going to need to take on some of his tasks.”  These are all excellent ways to make your employees run away and screaming in a panic. Here is my first tip when you have bad news to deliver … don’t be an insensitive jerk.

Do the opposite.  Soften the blow with a kind tone of voice, sincerity in your words, and concern in your eyes.  In other words, how we say it impacts how bad news is received.  After all, you are dealing with human beings with human emotions. But there is more to it than that.

Here is what I recommend:


Use this as your checklist:

  • How soon can I deliver the news?
  • How soon should I deliver the news?
  • What am I permitted to share?
  • What needs to remain confidential?
  • How will I explain the importance of confidentiality?
  • What questions do I anticipate they will want the answers to?
  • How will I answer anticipated questions?
  • What resources do I need to have available?
  • What expectations do I need to communicate?
  • Who needs to hear the news first? Second? Third? etc.
  • How much time do I need to share the news AND answer questions AND to listen to concerns?
  • How will I keep communication open?
  • What is my check in plan?

Okay, it’s all up to you now.  Just remember, there is a human being receiving the message … so be human when you deliver it.