Magazine article USA TODAY

I've Got Bad News

Magazine article USA TODAY

I've Got Bad News

Article excerpt

Bad news is no fun to deliver, which is why even distinguished leaders and otherwise successful people will go to great lengths to avoid doing it. For instance, you might tolerate a longstanding, but mediocre, vendor instead of giving the contract to another company, or perhaps you make excuses to hold on to an underperforming employee. Also, admit it: you almost certainly have hung around in a problematic personal relationship (romantic or platonic) longer than you should have.

These delays buy us a reprieve, but they surely do not Improve the situation. In fact, as we hesitate, prevaricate, and beat around the bush, the underlying problem gets worse and the web of complications grows ever more tangled. That is why we owe it to ourselves to study up on the fine art of delivering bad news.

If you were hoping for a way around the unpleasant emotions that accompany the delivery of bad news, well, there isn't one, but there are some strategies to help you deal with these conversations more promptly and successfully. Delivering bad news is an essential skill, even if it will not win you any popularity contests. Dealing with issues promptly and decisively can save you time, energy, and even money--as well as all of the mental anguish you feel while putting off a difficult conversation.

Here are some things to keep in mind the next time you need to deliver a message the other person will not want to hear:

Get to the core of the matter. When you were writing essays in high school, dredging up a thesis statement may have made you feel like banging your head against your desk. Even now, coming up with the perfect hook to put into a business proposal for a potential client can take hours of your time, but determining a core message is surprisingly easy when it comes to delivering bad news, as your core message is obvious in these situations. Quite simply, it is the thing you do not want to say. Your core message might be, 'We are switching vendors," or We have to let you go," or, We should stop seeing each other." The message you have been avoiding is the message you need to deliver.

Stick to your guns. Determining your core message was the easy part. You may not find the remainder of your task as simple. Think back to the tough conversations you have had in the past: have you ever been talked out of your decision by the other person (We have worked together for 15 years--you are not really letting me go, are you? …

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