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How to Break Bad News at Work

There are times when you are given the job to break bad news to your colleague or customer. Your manner of delivery can make or break your own career as well. At the TechRepublic, Calvin Sun discusses 10 tips by which you can lessen the aftereffect of bad news at work.

10 Tips to Cushion the Blow

  1. Bad news always come when you least expect them. If you anticipate something to fail eventually, announce it beforehand to the client. If you can, prepare a mitigation plan. Instead of an uncertain remedial, it is best that you prepare the client with all the resultant issues that could crop up.
  2. Select a suitable a time when you can say it finally. Timing is crucial here. You should give the client time to let it sink in, so do not say it casually after a tea break or throw it when you are running between meetings.
  3. Instead of beating around the bush, go straight to the point. Your clients might be taking a time out of their busy schedule, so it is best that you state the purpose of this unusual meeting first before going into details.
  4. Narrate the background concisely. After you break the news to them, they would obviously want to know how and why it came to this point of no-return.
  5. Let both the parties sit comfortably before you do it. This would prevent injuries if the person receiving the bad news suddenly has a nervous breakdown or resorts to violence out of frustration.
  6. Where you position yourself also matters. Having your work desk in between might not only distance yourself from the victims physically but also create a symbolic mental barrier for you to reach out to them. Sit in the same side or in a way that would suggest you are with them at their time of crisis.
  7. If the clients take out their frustration on you, just remember they are not shouting at you. Though you are only the messenger, you are the closest they can get to venting out their frustration.
  8. Be empathetic. Though the news might not directly affect you, you still need to be sensitive about the victims’ feelings.
  9. Help them find a positive aspect of the bad news. Even if you have lost majority of the data, they will still be relieved to know you have retrieved parts of it.
  10. Offer tangible alternatives. Your clients are already stressed out, so giving a plausible solution would ease their pain a bit. Additionally, having a solution ready would showcase your ability to manage risks to your clients.

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