one wants to be the bearer of bad news. Telling your neighbor
that her roof collapsed while she was on vacation isn't exactly
fun. You know the torrential downpour that demolished the
roof wasn't your fault, but you don't want to be the one to
break it to her.
It's the same in business. If your CEO asks you to investigate the feasibility
of introducing his pet project to the market, you don't want to be the one to
tell him that demand just isn't there.
While it's never pretty, there are things you can do to soften the blow of
bad news. The next time you have to present less-than-favorable information,
keep the following tips in mind.
Tailor your presentation appropriately.
You wouldn't wear a Hawaiian print shirt to a funeral, so don't use bright colors,
cartoons, sound-effects or zany fonts if your PowerPoint presentation contains
a series of grim statistics. Stick to a simple background color (or use a standard
corporate template) and sans-serif font. Save the transitions and animation
effects for a more upbeat presentation.
Don't invite extra spectators.
When you schedule a bad-news meeting, it's particularly important to invite
only those people necessary to the discussion. If you must discuss declining
productivity within the manufacturing group, call a meeting with pertinent managers
and VPs. Give them the facts, then leave it up to individual managers to disseminate
the information to their teams.
Don't be overly dramatic.
Okay, so your sales team didn't meet third quarter revenue projections. While
this is disappointing to the company and detrimental to your year-end financial
position, it's not the end of the world. If you were asked to report on year-end
numbers, don't bring up layoffs and demotions. Stick to the facts and leave
your predictions out of it.
Include a positive spin.
Bad news is always easier to swallow if it's delivered with a positive spin.
For example, if you must report that the results of your company's latest advertising
strategy are less than favorable, you'll also want to include some positive
news. After you've reviewed the key results of your research, conclude with
a recommendations section. If consumers hated the look of the ad, but thought
the copy was well written, recommend that future advertising use the same copy
direction but a different layout.
Don't sugarcoat it.
On the other hand, be careful not to sugarcoat the information. You have an
obligation to share the facts even if they're alarming or upsetting to
others within the organization. After all, it's business. Numbers fall, campaigns
fail, employees don't work out, and the economy slumps people cope with
bad news every day. Be forthright, objective and optimistic it's the
best way to deliver bad news.
1. Unwired Newsletter
How to Present Highs
and Lows in the Same Meeting