How to Share Bad News Without Demotivating Your Team

If you have been leading for very long, you’ve had bad news to deliver to someone or to your entire team.

I do realize that there is “bad news” and there is “seriously-work-and-life-changing-bad-news”, but regardless of the depth, leaders worry about the impact the news will have on the psyche, attitude and motivation of their teams.

While that is a worthy concern, there are several things to think about that will change your approach, your expectations and likely your results when you have to be the bearer of bad news.

Before Your Start…

It will happen. First and foremost, as I’ve already said (and you already know), bad news will surface. As a leader, you can’t be surprised by the fact that you have a tough message to deliver, and you must be prepared to deliver it.

Don’t wait. Procrastination doesn’t make it better, and it usually makes it worse. You know it is true. Share what you know, when you know it.

How bad is it? The truth about this depends greatly on your perspective. There is no doubt you have examples in your life where you thought news was bad, and that with the wisdom that comes from time, that “bad” thing either wasn’t as bad as imagined or actually became something good. Keep this in mind as you prepare to deliver the message.

Think about the whole picture. The situation may be bad, but is it all bad? If we frame it as negative from the start, the chances of you (or anyone else) seeing anything other than the negative is greatly diminished. Before you deliver the message, make sure you are seeing it from every side first.

When Delivering the News…

Acknowledge the bad, share it all. In the last point, I encouraged you to get a broader perspective on the situation and the news. I am not suggesting you sugar coat the news or make things seem better than they are. I am suggesting you help people see the full picture – warts, scars and possibilities too. Your goal is to communicate the message clearly and help the team move past it. Without a 360 perspective it will be more difficult for them to move forward.


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