SBM Articles


The Bad News Dilemma: How Do You Give It?

by Richard Avdoian

It certainly isn’t easy to hear bad news, whether at work or in your personal life. For some business owners and managers, it is equally difficult to give negative feedback or bad news, whether it’s related to missing a deadline, a customer or peer complaint, termination, or a family crisis.

It seems it is basic human nature to internalize bad news as “you’re not good enough” or as a real threat to our survival and livelihood. It is typical to be defensive, push back or have a fight-or-flight reaction.

To minimize undesirable reactions when giving employees bad news, consider these few simple tips:

Stay positive and on point. Acknowledge positive aspects of performance and then gradually lead into sharing negative feedback, areas needing improvement or personal-issue concerns. Generally this will help prepare individuals to listen and actually hear the negative or emotional news. Studies have indicated that individuals are more receptive to hearing negative/bad news if they don’t feel threatened or defensive. When bad news or negative feedback is shared with a positive, supportive tone, the listener is more receptive, more appreciative and less likely to be combative or angry.

Keep it simple, with facts only, and private
. First and foremost, as a Boy Scout would say, “Be prepared.” Have your facts in order and all pertinent documents prepared, and know your desired outcome and goals. Designate a private area to share this information to minimize gossip and allow for the individual to feel comfortable and more receptive. Just the facts — avoid unnecessary flowery talk, as it simply prolongs anxiety both for the giver and the receiver of the news.

Show empathy and respect. Welcome the employee and set the stage for the interaction to be a two-way conversation. Sincerely encourage and ask for them to express candidly their thoughts, opinions and needs related to the news. This will help set a positive foundation for a positive outcome. Their reaction, thoughts, expressed needs and concerns will provide necessary insight and help you design an individually customized solution to address the identified issue.

Provide guidance/mentoring. Business owners well know that it is generally cheaper to keep employees than to terminate and replace them. So when it is necessary to give bad news and feedback, offering the means to rectify the issue is important. Allowing for a two-way conversation proves to be a way to assess whether the individual is able to accept their need to improve and invest in enhancing their ability and has the motivation to implement a plan to action.

Step 1: “I like…” or “I am pleased with…” State a few positive individual observations.
Step 2: “I am concerned about…”
Step 3: “I suggest…”

In the end, giving bad news or negative feedback doesn’t have to be dreaded or avoided. When given in a timely manner, with a positive purpose and followed by mentoring and training, it can prove to have a positive outcome. It could improve job performance, employee relations, and team dynamics, which will increase productivity and profitability.

Richard Avdoian is president/CEO of the Midwest Business Institute Inc., a business consulting and training firm. For information about training and seminars, contact Richard at 618-972-8588 or

Submitted 6 years 59 days ago
Categories: categorySmart Business
Views: 2957