How to Give Bad News in Business Without Demoralizing
Good leaders tell their people the truth about performance, not to beat them up, but to develop and grow them. It is the most unkind thing in the world to hold back telling people what they need to know to succeed – giving them no choice but to remain ignorant until the problem loses them credibility, reputation or, worst case, their jobs.
When you come from a place of caring and developing, people know it. John C. Maxwell said it well, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” If you have bad news to share, share it using a simple but very effective constructive feedback following these six steps in this order:
Consider the person, place and how they would hear this information in the most productive way.
2. Convey Your Positive Intent
Share your motivation for telling them what you have to say, e.g. “I want you to succeed and I know you will have a good shot at it when you are aware of something that’s getting in your way.”
3. Describe your Observation/Situation
Be specific, and speak about your observations and perceptions, e.g. “I’ve noticed that you consistently interrupt people in meetings, and I have seen irritation with you in attendees’ faces and actions on a number of occasions.”
4. Describe the Impact of the Behavior or Action
Be specific again, e.g. “I’ve noticed that you are not getting invited to meetings where your input and expertise should be heard and I believe it’s largely because of the very real frustration the people calling those meetings have with your many interruptions.”
5. Ask for a Response
Allow the person to ask questions, respond, consider the issue, state their point of view: e.g. “What do you think/feel about what I’ve shared with you, and have you noticed any of what I have noticed?”
6. Focus on Solutions, Not Blame
Discuss what you can do to help this person in the future, how to remedy the issue at hand and finally, explore how he/she can get one or more good feedback loops going forward (data about improvement level). Reiterate your positive intent as often as needed to reassure this person you care and have their best interests at heart.
Leadership authority Roxana (Roxi) Hewertson is a no-nonsense business veteran revered for her nuts-and-bolts, tell-it-like-it-is approach and practical, out-of-the-box insights that help both emerging and expert managers, executives and owners boost quantifiable job performance in various mission critical facets of business. Through AskRoxi.com, Roxi – “the Dear Abby of Leadership” – imparts invaluable free advice to managers and leaders at all levels, from the bullpen to the boardroom, to help them solve problems, become more effective and realize a higher measure of business and career success. I95