How to break bad news at work
Breaking bad news is never easy, but we all have to do it. Sometimes it’s just passing challenging feedback on to a friend. Maybe you need to talk to a team member about their work performance, or worse, let them go entirely. Regardless, getting it ‘over and done with’ is generally accepted as the best way to approach a gruelling task. Attempts at small talk just prolong the discomfort for the person receiving the news, and often leave them with more questions than answers.
Try… When preparing to deliver bad news at work, firstly ensure that all controllable, logistical elements are in place – such as finding a private space, setting aside an uninterrupted block of time and having a clear script that covers the points you wish to make. Once in the meeting, remain direct by avoiding humour and chit-chat, and show empathy without softening the blow so much that your message becomes unclear or vague. Finally, accept that they may direct some of their hurt towards you, so let them say their bit. Don’t try to put an overly positive spin on the situation, or offer unsolicited advice. Frank but thorough, the news will undoubtedly sting, but a clean break is key for a smooth recovery.