Career masterclass: Sharing bad news

Get bad news out in the open with as little stress as possible.

Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

Don't stall. The longer you leave it the harder it will be and the greater the risk of rumours circulating. Schedule a meeting. Now.

Regain perspective. Picture yourself in three months. What are you doing? How do you feel? Has anything actually changed? However tough the conversation, it won't ruin you.

Be prepared. You can't wing it. Brainstorm every question you might face; prepare detailed answers; practise until perfect.

Get real. The Institute for Employment Studies says managers who are honest about bad news have more engaged teams.

Encourage discussion. Make people feel heard by asking them to voice their concerns. Listen without interrupting, judging or making unrealistic promises and show lots of empathy.

Remain objective. Stick to facts ('your account is ú150,000 below target') and keep inflammatory assumptions ('you're lazy') and personal emotions ('I feel let down') to yourself.

Deal with denial. Explain the situation again using a different tone of voice or type of language. If that fails, prompt them to think logically by asking why they see things differently.

Stay calm. Even if subjected to a personal attack. Remember: the anger is at the situation, not you.

Boost morale. We often turn a piece of bad news into an assault on our character. Rebuild confidence by outlining strengths ('I love your energy/persistence/humour').

Look ahead. Whether it's working with a performance coach or helping with CVs, work as a team to effect a turnaround.

Reflect. Research shows the more often we deliver bad news, the more we do so in a way that's easiest for us. Instead, think what could have made it better for the other person.

- The Mind Gym: Relationships is published by Little, Brown at £12.99. Click here for further info about MindGym/MT masterclasses.

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