How To Break Bad News in Business - Birchills Blog
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How To Break Bad News In Business


Things go wrong. People make mistakes. Deadlines are missed

So when things do go wrong what should you do?


If there is bad news that needs breaking, then ask yourself if it's you that needs to break the bad news. Only break the bad news if you have enough authority to respond effectively. If your boss is the only one who can respond, then she should be making the call

If it is up to you - then you should know it is not going to be easy. Breaking bad news is just plain uncomfortable.

The first thing you need to do is to make sure you know the details of what has happened and why it has happened.

Then try and think of what you might do to put it right -- work out a plan of action. Do you have the resources to make it work? Perhaps you need to make a call to some suppliers up front.

You must be honest and care about the call -- being flippant or making jokes will simply make a bad situation worse.

So take a deep breath, pick up the phone and dial as soon as you have enough information. Things only get worse if left. The phone is the right way to handle it. It is urgent and it allows feedback...and they can't hit you.

When you get through stay calm and apologise up front. Something like
"I'm sorry to have to tell you that your delivery is going to be late"

Then try and explain what has happened and what you propose to do about it. Inventing explanations is not a great idea - you may get found out. You should try and phrase the problem as an obstacle to be overcome rather than the end of the world.
If the client is angry then the best you can do is listen and say that you understand his anger. Say now you want to do the best under the circumstances. You should then offer the action plan you thought of before you made the call. For instance, "I've found an alternative supplier who can shorten the delay - shall we go with them?"

If the client makes a reasonable request to sort out the mess, then agree immediately. If the client's request is out of all proportion, then invent a higher authority. "I'm sorry, I don't have the authority to do that." Even if you are the MD you can still have limits on your authority "I'm sorry, my board would never let me do that".

Always only promise what you know you can deliver. If something is broken you can promise to do your very best to get it fixed - not that it will actually be fixed. Promising the earth and then not delivering simply makes matters worse.

Once you have agreed the way forward finally clarify the understanding you have reached by summarising the key points. And apologise again.

Then get yourself a coffee you've earned it!

So the key points are

Be apologetic but don't grovel
Make sure you know the facts and have a plan of action
You want to find the best solution under difficult circumstances.
Pick up the phone as soon as possible
COMMENTS

purplemockingjayeyes 3 months ago
Hope this works outside of business too, Have to tell my parents I've failed out of university for a year...wish me luck

Demolition Man reply
Best of luck

Stephanie G 1 month ago
Uncomfortable when this happens. Better to face it head on though in the long run.
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