When the Only News is Bad News

Bad News

Bad news is hard to give, and even harder to receive.

When you’re communicating bad news, you might try and soften the blow, to deflect some of the pain you know the receiver will experience. Let’s face it – rarely do these attempts to “ease into” troubling news ever work the way we intended.

Bad news is notoriously given just before an extended break away from work – before a holiday, before summer break, or on a Friday afternoon – again, with the idea that the severity of the news can be managed, its scope hidden or simply buried.

Likewise, conflating the telling of bad news with good (or at least, marginally, better) news, in the hopes it will limit damages, really only fools ourselves.

Receiving bad news is an entirely passive experience – which makes it so much worse, not better. Feeling helpless in the face of bad news adds exponentially to the misery of its reception.

Try to do the following, when you’re the harbinger of ill tidings:

  • Communicate bad news to the people it affects as early as you ethically and possibly can. Nothing is worse than finding out bad news, from someone other than the person who should be telling you, first.
  • Be accurate and honest in relating bad news. There’s no sense in sugar-coating anything; the truth will eventually come out. So, tell it like it is.
  • Don’t count on events outpacing bad news, and somehow solving the problem of relating bad news for you.

No one wants to be the bearer of – or worse – the cause of bad news. But that doesn’t excuse you from being accountable, responsible, or ethical.

How you convey bad news is a true test of your mettle as a leader, and your dependability in a crisis. Don’t shirk your responsibility when adversity inevitably arrives – step up, and show why they gave you the job in the first place.

Go, and be you.