24 tips for delivering bad news (free PDF)

Whether you’re notifying your staff about impending layoffs, telling a client they need an expensive upgrade, or reporting disappointing quarterly results to your boss, some delivery techniques can make the news easier to hear. This ebook covers tried-and-true methods of sharing bad news.

From the ebook:

During the course of your career, you may have to deliver bad news to someone. That bad news could go to a subordinate, a client, or your boss. The way you handle the situation and yourself can have an impact on your career and your stress level. Here are some ways to ease the process.

Set and manage expectations beforehand if you can
Sometimes, bad news comes completely unexpectedly. A plane can suddenly lose power and crash. An apparently healthy 18-year-old can collapse and pass away.

Other times, however, if the bad news comes as a complete surprise, it means someone failed to fully prepare the recipient ahead of time. If you believe that something you attempt might turn out unfavorably for a client or customer, let them know first. Above all, be careful about guaranteeing results or saying that a particular outcome is a “sure thing.” If necessary, outline all the risks and potential issues that might prevent the desired result.

You may not always be able to do this. But if you can set expectations, your job of delivering bad news will be much easier.

Do a proper setup for the moment
Don’t deliver bad news casually or in passing. Set up a time to talk with the other person. If you need to deliver the news right at the moment, say, “I need to talk with you about [the matter].” In other words, establish a setting and a context for the conversation, instead of just springing the news.

Get to the point
I’ve never known bad news to improve with keeping. < The late actor Sir Alec Guinness delivered this memorable line in the 1980 movie Little Lord Fauntleroy. Yes, some people do like to preface the bad news with background information and details of everything they did and everything they tried. Better, though, simply to cut to the chase and tell the person the bad news. Chances are, they won’t even be listening to all your preliminary words anyway.

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