Dana  Bristol-Smith

Article Summary:

How to deliver bad news to employees effectively and as painlessly as possibly.

How To Deliver Bad News

“Your job is changing”

“There will be no bonuses this year”

“We will be implementing a new software system”

“We are merging with a former competitor”

Sound familiar?
The truth is, managers dread having to deliver bad news or news about a major change. However, as we all have experienced, these types of announcements are becoming common. That doesn’t mean it gets any easier or any less painful to be the bearer of bad news. As hard as it is for managers to deliver the news, employees want to hear the straight story.

Some managers may withhold information from their staff because of their own anxiety over how the staff will react. So the well-meaning manager may try to minimize the news or sugar-coat it.

Let’s use a Band-Aid analogy here. To minimize the news, or just give part of the news is the slow Band-Aid approach. Remember when your mother asked you if you wanted her to take it off quickly, or slowly? Some of us were so afraid of the pain of the quick removal, we had her take it off slowly and we found out that it hurt for a long time. We later learned that if she ripped it off quickly, it still hurt, but not for as long. Likewise, if managers are able to get the whole story out right away; It’s still painful, but probably not for as long. More importantly, employees receive the concern and respect they deserve.

The next time you have to deliver difficult, critical information, try the quick Band-Aid removal approach. Even though your staff has to endure a difficult situation, there can be an enhanced sense of teamwork and morale can be retained.

Quick Band-Aid Removal
Here is a 4-step model for getting the job done with less pain and stress, and for showing respect and empathy for employees.

1. What?
What is the change? Describe the change and how it will impact staff.

2. Why?
Why is this happening? Give the whole truth, nothing but the truth.

3. Show Empathy.
Acknowledge and address the staff’s concerns, issues and potential problems with the change. Use feeling language to show empathy.

“I know that some of you may be feeling overwhelmed with how your workload will be changing. I understand that and share your concerns. I want you to know that you have my support in what ever way you need it to help you through this challenge.”

4. Now What?
What actions do you need staff to take to make this happen? When do they need to make them? Any other next steps?

Let’s think back to mom and the Band-Aid. Even though it was painful, you knew mom still loved you when she quickly ripped it off. You might have shed a few tears, but then, you moved on. Likewise, most change will be painful at first, but with this direct and truthful approach your staff will know that you respect and care for them.

Dana Bristol-Smith is the founder of Speak for Success, an organization that works with companies that want their people to communicate with confidence and credibility. She is the author of Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking interactive manual. Dana works primarily with managers, sales and technical professionals and has delivered presentations and training to more than 100,000 people since 1992. For more information, visit Speakforsuccess.net

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