Give them the Bad News

Who likes receiving bad news?

Better yet, who likes giving it?

You might be surprised to hear that if given the choice people would much rather receive bad news than give it.

After all — who wants to be the “Bearer” of bad news?

No one.

But if you’re a leader.

If you’re leading a team of people.

If you’re working with a client on a project.

If you’re delivering a product hotfix for a customer.

And there is bad news to be delivered, you are the one that needs to and MUST deliver it.

Let’s take those three scenarios and break them down.

As the Leader

People on your team they need to hear bad news. They need to hear about where and when the team is not hitting the mark. They need to know what isn’t work. They need to know where they went wrong.

Because that is the only way they will get better — that is the only way you can work with them to grow and improve their skillset, that is the only way that they will be able to continue to level up their game.

Is there a good way to deliver bad news to your team?

Yes, be honest, be forthright, it’s not all on one person and have a plan in mind on how the team is going to improve before you deliver that message. Bad news is always delivered better when a plan or action is in hand on how they are going to overcome it.

For a Client

I differentiate between projects and products on Bad News because Bad News for both is different. For a custom project built specifically for a singular client. The Bad News always hurts, it’s against them and no one else. So this is where you need to balance the good and the bad — what is working and what isn’t. There might be some internal politics behind the scenes driving their decisions, that’s okay, focus on how to work with them to overcome them without you being brought down into them. Always remember your goal is to deliver the project at hand, not to solve all of their problems (unless that is actually what you are supposed to do).

For the Customer

The Customer(s) are the ones receiving your product. And the bad news for one is generally bad news for all that are using the product or that portion of that product that is having some issues. As is the same for the Client and Leader — the action plan is what matters when dealing with Bad News for the Customer — “Yes we know something is wrong, we know it is here, we are looking at it, call us and here is how we’ll help you in the meantime”. Again it comes down to being honest and straightforward while having a plan for how to help them in the meantime. Speaking from experience, product issues that are bad news don’t get fixed overnight so the hand-holding and delivery while working the customer is critical to get them over this hump.

No one goes into a meeting hoping for a bad news or shows up on Monday sitting in traffic praying that there is bad news waiting for them on their desk when they get there. But it happens. Too often the Bad News is hidden because we think it’s a failure, a screw-up and why would we want to talk about it?

Everything discussed here is about you, the Leader, having to deliver the bad news, but your #1 goal at the end of delivering the bad news is for your team, your client and your customer to raise their game and get better. They might not like you being forthright with them and leave — it happens — but the ones that know you’re delivering the news to benefit them, they will appreciate the effort, they will listen, they will stay.

Hold onto those people, because they are the ones you want to ride out the bad news with.