How to Give Employees Bad News in the Best Way

Whether a worker has passed away unexpectedly, or a favored manager has been asked to move on to “another career opportunity”, breaking bad news to your employees can be difficult for even the most experienced leader.

No matter the situation, deal with it directly and with sensitivity to avoid confusion and maintain unity within the workplace. Although there may not be a “right” way to communicate bad news, there are steps managers can take to make it as easy as possible.

Here are some of the dos and don’ts of delivering bad news:

Do …

  1. Prepare yourself
  2. Give employees the opportunity to speak their minds
  3. Make an effort to be encouraging
  4. Treat them with empathy

Don’t …

  1. Try to find a “bright side” and, for gosh sakes don’t make a joke
  2. Beat around the bush
  3. Be vague
  4. Give advice unless asked

Whenever you need to talk to the workforce about a difficult situation, you should think carefully about the points you want to make. According to experts, the type of action required depends on the situation, and you should adjust how you prepare based on these circumstances.

For business changes, managers can address the overall impact to the company in an organization-wide email. But if there will be negative circumstances for a group or groups of employees, try to deliver the bad news face to face. Sure, you may feel uncomfortable with it, but imagine how a manufacturing plant full of people feel if their jobs are moving to another state.

Staffing changes require leaders to keep communication personal and decide how the team would best respond to the news. Even when you suspect that they will be overjoyed with the news—such as a well-liked peer gets a great promotion—there is always fallout. It’s human nature for jealousy to creep into situations at work.

In both of these conditions, it may be best to focus on the event in question and on the future benefits the change will have on the business. It is also important not to speak badly about a departing team member. Instead, prepare to keep the conversation positive and to stop any negative comments from occurring. Put the situation in context to help employees understand the situation and make the change a learning opportunity.

Delivering bad news when an employee passes away

The most delicate situation involves the death of an employee or a member of a worker’s family. Managers should speak with those closest to the deceased loved one before disclosing information to the workforce. Leaders may also want to advise workers to respect the family’s privacy and provide employees with a way to honor the deceased.

It is also important that managers validate workers’ feelings and give follow-up support to help employees through the tough time. Don’t assume they’ll “get over it” because the human mind and the emotions involved can be a mystery.

Great bosses are there for employees during the best of times and the worst. If you’re not comfortable with the situation, seek help yourself from Human Resources, peers or mentors who may have gone through the same thing you are experiencing. And, despite the fact you might think you’re Wonder Woman or Superman and can handle things, you’re human too and may have your own emotional issues to deal with.

 

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