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Mar 3 2020

    How to Deliver—and Survive—Bad News

    Whether it’s about pandemics or punch lists, nobody wants to hear bad news, let alone be the bearer if it. Delivering bad news the wrong way can only make matters worse. But done right, you will show the kind of leadership and professionalism that will enable you to weather the storm. Here’s how:

    Bad news should never be a surprise. Keep clients in the loop whenever there is potential risk. Regular, frequent communication and updates help you manage expectations and avoid situations that can balloon into major disputes.

    Don’t delay. Deliver bad news promptly. Don’t waste time hoping things will improve.

    Be prepared. Organize notes with key facts, figures, and contributing factors so you can speak authoritatively about the situation at hand. If you seem uninformed, you will make a bad situation worse.

    Never hide the facts. Resist any temptation to withhold information out of fear, or to save face. Hidden facts have a way of surfacing, and when this happens, the loss of your client’s trust and confidence could leave your relationship in jeopardy.

    Look for positives. A bad situation may not be entirely negative. While misrepresenting the facts is never wise, it may be possible to frame the bad news within a bigger picture that makes it less problematic.

    Bring solutions. Bad news delivered without solutions is really bad news. Move the situation forward by proposing solutions or an action plan that proactively addresses what happened.

    Follow though. Don’t drop bad news and run. See the situation through by communicating any corrective steps you take to make things right. Your efforts will be noted and managing the problem well can actually strengthen your client relationship.