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How to give bad news

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Being the bearer of bad news is never a comfortable position to be in especially if you are a manager. As social beings, we tend to try and cushion the blow and hide the painfulness of the message but this often makes things worse.

Career site Glassdoor composed a list of phrases not to say the next time you have to give bad news.

1. “I’m so sorry, but…”

Phrases like, “I’m sorry, but…”, “This is so unfair, but…” or “I don’t think this is right, but,” will only negatively affect the perception the person you’re giving bad news too has of you. It also undermines your authority and makes people wonder why you’re delivering a message you don’t support.

I'm sorry but 1

2. “While I have you here…”

Bad news should never be an appendage to another conversation or come as a surprise. If you are a manager delivering bad news don’t pull someone aside in a meeting or give it in passing. Set time aside so that the person is prepared whether it’s telling a boss that profits are down or a subordinate they are making mistakes they need to correct.

While I have you here


3. With too many details

While context is important the sooner you get to the bad news the better. Take responsibility for your part in making the decision but avoid putting off the bad news with excuses, over-explanation or who else is to blame. Get to the point and rip off the band-aid.

I'm sorry but


4. “I’m not clear on the details, but…”

Be upfront and know all the details because withholding information can make the bad news much worse. Hiding what you know won’t solve the problem. Rather have all the information at your disposal before sharing the bad news.
I'm sorry I don't have all the details


5. Without planning ahead

Once you are aware you need to give bad news make sure you are prepared and think about the best way of delivering it. You are already at an advantage with time on your side so you can think about giving the news in the most productive way possible.



Photo/ Giphy

ALSO READ: 4 in 5 staff want more company updates – even if they’re bad

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