What’s the best way to communicate bad news?

Date posted: 9 March 2016  |  Posted in: Hot topic

So how should you communicate bad news? There is no ‘right’ answer but there are some principles we use to land important messages that help employees understand the context and impact of major business change decisions.

1. Deliver difficult messages face to face

This is most definitely not the time for e-mails or long strategic intranet messages with the people impacts concealed in the detail. Pull out the most important messages for each audience and craft them clearly. Then it’s over to your CEO, or senior manager, to deliver the messages authentically and empathetically.

2. Forensic planning

Creating a detailed timeline built around the announcement week is essential, and this should drive all the communications and sessions that will be needed. This should be broader than just the communications timeline, with input from HR and external communications.

3. Consider your timings carefully

Know your audiences and make sure your prioritise those who are likely to be impacted. Make sure employees are first to hear the news. Wherever possible coordinate so that there are multiple briefings happening at the same time so people feel their needs have been considered and they have all been treated fairly.

4. Be as open and honest as you can

People want to know the facts and the full impact – that’s what enables them to move on. Consider different audiences – what’s going to be most important to them and what do they need to know? Keep your core messages consistent but tailor the information, tone and delivery by audience.

These are all good principles to apply – but every situation will be unique. Our team has lots of experience of working with companies to communicate major change with people impacts. Get in touch if you’d like to know more.


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