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Episode 36: When You've Got Bad News to Share

communication podcast Aug 30, 2022

A proposal we’ve been working on didn’t get approved. How do I break the bad news to the team?

One of those isolating experiences of leaders is the responsibility to deliver bad news. Often taking responsibility for doing the hard stuff even when it’s not on you. 

State the Simplest Truth Clearly

When we deliver bad news our tendency is to want to soften the blow. Have some sort of “on-ramp” to the bad news. That is usually counter productive. Even a sentence or two announcing that you have bad news can ignite anxiety before you even deliver the bad news.

Another mistake you want to avoid is placing blame or adding in excuses. You don’t want to throw somebody under the bus. It really won’t help. Instead, it’s okay to be vulnerable about your own disappointment because my guess is that your team is feeling some disappointment, too.

Let Them Grieve

I know that you want to move on and grief can be uncomfortable. Yet, it’s necessary to create space to let our team feel the loss and express their sadness.

You may want to prepare a one sentence statement about the consequences of not getting the proposal. Let the heaviness of the room be an okay space to acknowledge the loss. If someone's expression of grief turns toward blaming. Simply redirect them back to the simplest truth, acknowledge that it’s hard and remind them that you will get through it together. 

Offer Hope

In the book Strengths Based Leadership by Tom Rath and Barry Conchie their research with over 10,000 followers in all kinds of industries showed that followers need four things from leaders: Trust, Compassion, Hope and Stability 

When it comes to hope . . you may not know what’s next. It doesn’t have to be a detailed plan B, but a clear next step with a confident statement – “We will get through this. We’ve been through hard things and we will do it again.” Share stories of how you’ve overcome to remind them of their hope. 

Questions will pop up along the way – so don’t hesitate to ask a question! 

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