delivering bad news at work

Delivering bad news at work: 7 ways to do it right

Delivering bad news at work is an art form. Normally, you don’t have to deliver unpleasant news at work very often, but every now and then you do have to deliver some. That’s why we want to take a closer look at this issue and help you deal with it more effectively. 

In life in general and at work in particular, we are constantly exchanging data, knowledge, and impressions of all kinds. Communication is constant and we cannot be in an office -even working remotely- without exchanging information to a greater or lesser extent.

It is said that information is power, but it is also more things. When it is correctly transmitted at work, it functions as an essential tool for decision-making and problem-solving. In these cases, it becomes a source of team cohesion and employee engagement. However, when it is poorly transmitted… well, when it is poorly transmitted, it causes problems in the work environment that can be very harmful and for which the HR team must be prepared.

Being prepared when delivering bad news at work

Delivering bad news at work is not easy and they come in different varieties. From communicating the death of a team member to the implementation of a redundancy plan or a salary cut, to those moments when the competition takes the prize that the staff has worked so hard for… The situations in which you have to get in front of employees and share the B-side with them can be very diverse and it is in these situations that the communicative skills of the people in charge can be truly appreciated. 

delivering bad news at work

Isn’t it true that when everything is going well we don’t notice that our muscles and organs are there, but it is when they hurt or are injured that we become aware of their presence? 

In a certain sense, delivering bad news at work is similar to health, also in the work environment. Under normal conditions, we don’t realize how important it is to have good access to information. However, when the team – or the company as a whole – goes through some kind of crisis then and it is time to communicate bad news in the work environment, employees value much more the quality and thoroughness with which they are informed about what has happened, what they should do and what to expect. 

How to deliver bad news at work

Delivering bad news at work employees will be based on the seriousness and irreversibility of what has happened, as well as the number of people affected and their role in a possible solution. 

On the other hand, when delivering bad news at work, other important aspects of corporate communication must be taken into account. For example, it is important to decide who is going to deliver the news and through what medium. It should be remembered that not everyone has the same authority to transmit any piece of information, nor can all bad news be communicated through any medium. 

Therefore, taking care of these factors will help employees have a smooth experience of how they have been informed of bad news. 

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7 tips to take into account when delivering bad news at work

In general, the following characteristics can be taken into account when delivering bad news at work to employees. 

1. Be honest

Communicate by conveying the truth, without being more overly harsh than necessary, but without minimizing the seriousness of the situation, at the risk of having to retract later and generating mistrust among the workforce. 

2. Be clear

Communicate in an understandable way. To inform is to give a piece of information to the employee, but that information must be given in a way that the employee can understand it. The content and form of the message must be sufficiently unambiguous to ensure that the information reaches its intended recipient and is useful. 

3. Convey security

Communicate without causing more alarm than necessary. Even if the situation is bad, do not instill unnecessary fear or concern in the audience, i.e., do not contribute to the problem. Those who receive bad news need the sender to convey firmness and solvency so that they are not overwhelmed by events.

4. Give enough information to those affected

When delivering bad news at work to employees, it is not enough to give them “some” information, but just enough information (no more and no less) to give them a realistic and clear picture of the situation. 

5. Don’t saturate the employees

Communicate only what is necessary at any given moment, do not overload with data that do not provide information or that are irrelevant but mislead and hinder the understanding of the main message. If we are going to communicate bad news to employees, make sure it is information of interest at this moment and for these people, and that it is correctly focused.

6. Convey optimism

The communication of bad news should not be done with a focus on tragedy (unless what has happened is really a tragedy). It is necessary to communicate in a constructive way, prospecting solutions, opening a door to the possible margin of maneuver or capacity of influence in reverting the unfavorable situation, transmitting a realistic optimism that generates confidence in the future. 

7. Act with pertinence

Communicate at the right time. This should not be done too early when there is still insufficient information and communicating what information there is may generate more insecurity or confusion than anything else. Nor too late, as there is a risk of rumors spreading through the workforce and creating a harmful work environment.

delivering bad news at work

Helping companies when delivering bad news at work 

Ifeel has developed an emotional well-being program for companies, designed by its team of leading psychologists with the aim of helping companies place the care of their employees’ work environment at the center of their corporate culture, also through the encouragement of an optimal communication of both good and bad news. You can try our program today and start benefiting from its resources.

Thanks to this partnership, HR managers can receive personalized, data-driven advice when delivering bad news at work and thereby protect trust, cohesion, and performance.  

In addition, ifeel’s emotional well-being program for companies offers employees a mental health care service structured at different levels according to their needs. 

This means they can access various mental health care tools with ifeel’s app. On a second level, they can receive emotional support through a chat with one of our platform’s licensed psychologists. If continuous help is needed over time, they only have to access the third level of the program: online psychological therapy with a psychologist specialized in cases like theirs. 

We hope you found this post about delivering bad news at work interesting. If you would like more information about our emotional well-being program for companies, all you have to do is request it and we will contact your team as soon as possible.

You may also be interested in this post about mental health at work.

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