Delivering bad news can be one of the most difficult things you can do in both your personal life or in a business setting. Unless you live in a fairy tale land where everything is perfect and nothing goes wrong, eventually you will have to serve up some bad news at least once in your life. It’s bad news, so of course it’s going to be an unenjoyable experience, but it should be your goal to make this experience as somewhat pleasant as possible, for both yourself and the person receiving the bad news.
You might be thinking to yourself, “Bad news is bad news, who cares how it’s delivered”. That’s correct to an extent. But there are some cases where you don’t want to come off as a complete prick and need (or want) to maintain a good relationship with the person on the other side of the bad news. If you have any empathy at all, you’ll understand exactly how much this news is going to affect them. But you’re right, no need to sugar coat it. Your goal should be to deliver the bad news in a way that clearly states the message and how it will affect that person. Not sure how to do this? Well lucky for you, there’s actually a formula for delivering bad news.
Step 1: Add a Buffer. In this step, you’ll want to state the reason you are communicating with them, but don’t mention the bad news yet. Here’ you’ll want to remain positive. Keep it brief as you don’t want to waste their time with too much fluff.
Example: You’ve worked here for about a year now and have exceeded all our expectations.
Step 2: Deliver the Bad News and Provide Explanation. For this step you can either provide the bad news first followed by the explanation, or provide the explanation first leading into the bad news. The order doesn’t matter but when stating the bad news you want to make clear what is happening, why it is happening, and how it specifically affects them. No need to beat around the bush. Make it quick and to the point.
Example: It has come to our attention that you have been spending a majority of your day on a site called OfficeJockeys.com. For this reason, we are terminating your employment here immediately.
Step 3: Provide clear next steps. Sadly, the bad news is never really the end. Usually it requires some follow up action items that need to be completed, or in some cases maybe it provides steps taken to resolve the matter. This step gives the receiver something to act on rather than just sitting there lost without any sense of direction.
Example: Please turn in your badge and your gun and leave the premises immediately.
Step 4: Wrap it up. You’ve just delivered the bad news and now it’s time to part ways. Don’t ramble on and on wasting more of their time. Do it quickly and preferably in a way that will make them feel good despite the news you just hit them with.
Example: Look at the bright side: You now have more time to read the best content on the internet and you know longer have to worry about Mondays.
Follow these steps and you should be able to deliver bad news without looking like a total douchebag. Now go out there and break some hearts!