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How, when and where should you communicate bad news? - PR Daily

Are you a heartless henchman? Read this article to turn into an empathetic helper.


Have you ever been conscripted by some aloof or weaselly exec into an executioner’s role? To be fair, we all must occasionally bear bad news.


Dear communicator, stop me if you’ve heard this before from bigwigs eager to pass the bad news buck:

  • “We got to cut costs, and lay-offs are the only way. Send out an email.”

  • “We’re cutting some benefits, and we need to tell the staff.”

  • “We’re letting our remote workers go. Let them know, will ya?”

  • “I don’t want the staff to panic. Let’s wait until the last possible moment to inform them.”

  • “We’re haemorrhaging cash. How can we spin this?”

  • “Please inform the staff that lunch breaks are now just 30 minutes.”

How, When and Where to do it


First, determine who the news applies to. If it’s one person, be discreet but direct.

Communicate fast enough. Bad news should be communicated fast so that folks don’t pick up heresy with distorted information.


Four ways to ease pain, anxiety and confusion for everyone involved:


  1. The best way to break the bad news to employees is in person, allowing enough time for questions.

  2. You should follow up in writing, sharing any support resources, where they can get questions answered and any details or additional thoughts.

  3. You should follow up again simply to ask for feedback and to listen to their thoughts.

  4. If the bad news applies to only part of the team—let’s say half the team is being laid off—bring the whole team in so the affected parties do not have to spend the next few hours and days explaining things to their peers.

face-to-face communication is typically the best bet for sensitive announcements. Anticipate tough questions and be prepared for them.


Letting someone choose the time of a meeting gives them time to prepare, she says, but communicators should determine the where. “If you’re letting an employee go, you may want to do so in the see-through conference room in the middle of the office space because it’s safe and public.


Be very judicious with word choice while dealing with remote workers—as you won’t be able to use much body language or personal presence to soften the blow. Whether you break the news via video or email, err on the side of compassion.

Don’t forget to put everything that was discussed in writing.



Read the original article here


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