How to Communicate Bad News to Employees

Nobody likes to give bad news, as this can generate tension, conflicts, insecurity, can affect the mood of others and could demotivate. Things are even more delicate when bad news must be delivered in a business context. However, sometimes we need to make the employees aware of less pleasant things, and during such times the communication strategy plays an essential role.

Whether it is a change imposed by market unpredictability, an internal reorganization that could involve relocating employees to other projects or cost reductions, it is good to use such a situation as an opportunity to strengthen staff confidence in their organization. If the informing process is made in a way that aims to strengthen the link between the employee and the employer, the organization can recover from a crisis, build staff loyalty and become stronger.

Preparing Bad News

Before delivering any presentation to employees, it is essential to have prior preparation. This implies the accumulation of enough information so that, you can clarify any misunderstandings that employees may have. When communication is made, we must expect that there will be questions, and the clearer and elaborate the answers will be, the uncertainty and the risk of rumors and erroneous information spreading will decrease.

And because we talked about incorrect information that could spread among employees, we must also mention that a first step towards avoiding this is to act with transparency. As unpleasant as it may be, the truths have to be said, and "sweetening" the situation, postponing or even hiding bad news will only make the situation worse. Truth always comes to light, and when it happens in unofficial ways or too late, the effect is weakening credibility.

Honesty and Transparency

Directly confronting harsh realities and honestly communicating bad news will increase the sense of security in the good faith and sincerity of leaders. When bad news is communicated face to face, non-verbal language plays an extremely important role. Although they must show commitment and concern to employees, the one or those who deliver the information must never show insecurity or weakness, because these will be the feelings that will spread among those who receive the bad news.

Unclear messages or messages that could be misunderstood will not reduce the impact of bad news on employees but, on the contrary, will amplify the uncertainty that a negative change can generate. This is also the reason why it is good to explain to employees how a decision has been made, because only by understanding the mechanisms of the decision-making process they will be more receptive to the possible hostile consequences.

Last but not least, we need also to mention that assuming responsibility for the taken decisions, no matter how hard they are, is a vital thing. Accordingly, asking for feedback can be a good opportunity to find out if the communication strategy was an efficient one, but also because it can strengthen the employee-employer relationship.


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