Magazine article HRMagazine

When Workers Drop Bombshells

Magazine article HRMagazine

When Workers Drop Bombshells

Article excerpt

How to skillfully handle shocking or horrible news

When employees disclose shocking personal news-a pending divorce, a terminal illness, maybe a death in the family-no good manager would dare change the subject, discourage crying or carry on about her own experience, right?


Managers are often uncomfortable with emotion, said Jan Flynn, associate professor at Georgia College and State University's Department of Management. "I have seen over and over a tendency to push these things offonto HR ... because we don't train managers how to deal with these things," she explained.

Acknowledging an employee's emotional state is the first step when a worker delivers shocking or horrible news, explained Pamela J. Birrell, a clinical psychologist and senior instructor in the University of Oregon's psychology department. It's important to first validate the worker's emotion, perhaps with comments such as "That sounds like it was frightening for you" or "It seems you feel really sad about that" or "That must make you very angry."

Among Birrell's and Flynn's other suggestions for handling bad news:

* Let the worker talk-a lot. Don't lead the conversation. …

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