Magazine article Management Today

BRAINFOOD: Crash Course in Breaking Bad News

Magazine article Management Today

BRAINFOOD: Crash Course in Breaking Bad News

Article excerpt

Your main backer has pulled the plug and you have to sell part of the business. Or maybe a black hole has appeared in your accounts. Bad news is never welcome, but someone has to announce it. How best to do it?

Keep it personal

Don't use e-mail, voice-mail or text messages to do your dirty work. 'It must be done face-to-face, whether that is one-on-one or in groups,' says Nick Wright, head of internal communications practice at Fishburn Hedges. 'Sending out a message doesn't give people the recognition they deserve, and they have no opportunity to respond and ask questions.'

Beware the rumour mill

'The informal communication channel in most organisations is very efficient, but not necessarily very accurate,' says Cary Cooper, professor of organisational psychology at the University of Manchester. Get the news out in the open sooner rather than later.

Time it carefully

Ideally, bad news would be announced internally and externally at the same time, or a fraction earlier internally. 'You don't want to have people hearing the news from the media,' says Wright. 'But if you are a listed company, there is a legal requirement that shareholders are told first. So you have to plan accordingly.' You could brief senior teams after the market has closed so the news can be cascaded the following morning, but be wary of other workers missing out.

Plan for business as usual

Unless your entire business is about to go down the Swanee, you want minimal disruption as a result of the bad tidings. …

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