Everyone knows the saying “don’t shoot the messenger.” It’s difficult to be the one tasked with delivering bad news, especially if it is a decision that you don’t particularly agree with yourself.
At some point in time, you might find yourself in a position where you need to inform your employees of a tough company decision that may impact them negatively. At this point it becomes a balancing act: You need to deliver the company’s message in a way that best mitigates the concerns of employees and maintains unity amongst the company.
This is a sensitive situation to be in, and you’ll need to act accordingly. Keep the following considerations in mind to best serve the interests of both parties.
Before you go about delivering the news, consider how it will be received by your employees. Ideally, you will be able to address all of their major questions and concerns when you talk to them initially. Chances are that you won’t have all of the answers at the beginning. In this case, proactively let your employees know that you are seeking this information, and give them a sense of when you expect to know more.
It’s critical that you can effectively articulate how and why the particular decision was made. This will help employees understand and—ultimately—accept the result, even if they don’t necessarily like it.
You might not always agree with the company decision that you have been tasked to deliver. But keep in mind that it would be inappropriate for you to air these grievances to the employees. After all, they will be looking to you for assurance and direction. If you give them the sense that there is disagreement amongst the managing parties, your employees will completely lose confidence in the decision and question its cogency.
At the same time, it is important that you voice any questions or concerns with your higher ups. You need to fully understand their rationale if you are going to effectively communicate the decision to others. It may also be a good idea for you to let the deciding partners know how employees are handling the news and the overarching sentiment of the workplace.
One of the most important things that you need to be able to communicate is “when.” Employees will want to know what they can expect to happen next, how long they will be affected, and when things will be settled or “back to normal.”
Since all of these things will likely change over time, it is best to have open communication with your employees so you can keep them apprised of new information along the way. After you initially deliver the news, let your employees know when they can expect an update. You may also want to schedule specific times or office hours where they can check in if they have any questions or want to discuss further.
Glass Half Full
Bad news is an inevitability of life—and certainly an inevitability of business. The best you can do is treat your employees with respect and transparency. Doing so will help them feel as though they have some stability in a situation where they may otherwise feel powerless.