You may work at one of the most positive workplaces in the world, but invariably, there will be times when you must deliver bad news at work to a team or a colleague. We’ve all been there. Probably the most visceral example of this is when you have to lay someone off. Many of us have been the recipient. Just in November 2016 alone, more than 26,000 workers were terminated.1
Certainly, it is never easy to deliver bad news to a colleague. With that said, here are 3 useful tips for “softening the blow” to the colleague:
1. Put yourself in their shoes.
When you become sensitive and show empathy to people, they feel you care about them and the position they find themselves in. While many people deliver bad news wearing a full sheet of armor to protect themselves and their emotions, studies have shown it is much more effective to be personal and show emotion when delivering bad news. Compared to managers who guard themselves from showing emotion, empathetic managers are much more likely to yield more positive outcomes. The great outcomes include, but are not limited to: protecting the reputation of the organization, lowering the survivor guilt of remaining employees, and lessening the likelihood of post-layoff lawsuits and EEOC claims.
2. Give the guidance on what’s next.
Ideally, show compassion and understanding by sharing when you might have been in a similar position wondering what to do next. Highlight any silver lining that accompanies the bad news, such as a severance package. Outline the next steps on the path toward both action and positivity.
3. Be fair.
If multiple people are adversely affected by the bad news, treat everyone with consistency, and fairness. Make sure you train your managers, or whomever is due to deliver the bad news, in this regard. Ensure that each of your managers are trained to exhibit the same compassion, empathy, and fairness, when being “the bearer of bad news.”
No one likes to tell people things they do not want to hear or could not foresee. It hurts both the recipient and the person delivering the message. Bad news is always bad, and nothing is going to change that. But by adopting the three aforementioned best practices, it will make those uncomfortable workplace moments more manageable, constructive, and fair.
Source 1: Challenger, Grey & Christmas.