Gorilla Jobs Logo
Gorilla Jobs Blog Tips For Delivering Bad News Man Holding Cup To Ear To Listen To String Call

Recruitment 101: 5 Tips for Delivering Bad News at Work

September 7, 2022 0 Comments

No employer likes delivering ‘bad’ news at work, so here are 5 tips on doing it without being ‘the bad guy’.

“No, I’m sorry we had to offer the promotion to…”

“Our last financial year was problematic…”

Businesses go through good and not-so-good times throughout the business cycle, some of which are within the control of the organisation, some not.

With this comes the opportunity to deliver good news – “hey everyone, here’s a bonus” – but, conversely, also bad news, which is, let’s face it, a tough thing to do even for the most experienced senior staff or business owners.

Delivering bad news at work doesn’t necessarily occur that often, but there is no escaping it when the moment arises, which raises the question, “What is the best way to do it?”

Healthcare shines a light on delivering bad news at work

We’ve all heard the term “bedside manner”, pointing to the fact that if any professional knows more about delivering bad news, it’s nearly anyone who works in healthcare.

There would be few in the sector who haven’t had to offer some form of bad news to a patient or their carer at some time during their career. “Mind Tools” points to research in the Journal of Trauma-Injury Infection & Critical Care that has collated data about what people value in doctors or nurses when they need to communicate bad news, namely:

  • The news giver’s attitude and energy.
  • The clarity of the message.
  • Privacy.
  • The person’s ability to answer questions.

The 5 tips for delivering bad news at work

These kinds of values and actions can be transposed to wider settings with 5 key tips being:

  1. Be prepared
  2. Choose the time and setting
  3. Be clear, direct, honest and genuine
  4. Bring solutions
  5. Be optimistic where possible
Gorilla jobs Blog Tips for Delivering Bad News Meeting Room With People
Photo by Christina Morillo on Pexels

1. Be prepared

While some bad news has to be delivered in a short timeframe, it still pays to be as prepared as possible.

Before setting up a meeting for delivering bad news, pull together the most critical information: the why (rationale), the who (made the decision), the how (process by which the decision was made), the what (the decision’s effect on both the business and staff) and the when (timeline for the decision). And try to anticipate any questions that may be fired back about the information and have solutions that outline the way forward.

Also be as emotionally prepared as possible. Delivering bad news at work is stressful for everyone, including whoever has to deliver it. Being calm and clear, yet showing empathy, can go a long way in helping the process.

2. Choose the time and setting

Set up a time and place that considers how the news will be taken by the person or group receiving it. Privacy is key so that recipients of the news can digest it and respond in a confidential (and quite often raw, unfiltered) way.

Timing is key too: Waiting too long to deliver news can get the rumour mill churning and make it that much harder to manage when the conversation occurs.

3. Be clear, direct, honest and genuine

Researching and preparing for delivering bad news doesn’t mean preparing robotic, jargon-filled babble that leaves employees feeling confused and angry.

Be clear and authentic when delivering the bad news and frank in the way you explain the why, who and how. 

As employees digest the news, allow time for questions or responses, but stay clear and focused. Validate the emotions many will be feeling by showing empathy and compassion, and, even offer a genuine apology for it if warranted and appropriate. Also avoid small talk, especially when opening the discussion.

4. Bring solutions

Once the news has been delivered and digested, with questions answered as best as possible, it’s time to bring solutions to the table.

To help those affected to move on, provide advice outlining what the next steps in the process are.

And, while the decision may be “a done deal”, listen to what employees have to say in case there are other solutions management may have overlooked.

5. Be optimistic (where possible)

Delivering bad news often comes with a dark cloud over the process, but offering the silver lining and being positive where possible, particularly when outlining the solutions or path forward, is a good way to finish up the discussion.

But read the room: Don’t do this unless it’s possible to do so in a truly genuine and respectful manner.

Gorilla Jobs Can Help

We love what we do at Gorilla Jobs, and while there are challenges, we are always ready to help you as a candidate or recruiting organisation to ensure the best talent ends up in the best jobs. Reach out to us today if you have any questions!