Responding Well to Bad News
"Can we talk?"
It is amazing how three simple words can strike fear into any leader.
Nobody ever shares good news by starting with "Can we talk?" They just come out and say the good news.
"Can we talk?" is usually followed up with someone saying they are leaving the company, that a client is no longer a client, or some other piece of bad news that wasn't on your to-do list for the day.
While bad news can't be managed by eliminating it from a leader's role, how a leader deals with the bad news can be managed and even developed with the list below:
Respond versus react. Understand what triggers you so that you can respond thoughtfully versus a more reactionary mode in dealing with bad news.
Pause. Take a breath. Go for a walk. Have questions at the ready. Whatever allows you to time to collect yourself will be helpful.
Focus on the facts versus emotions. Everyone has emotions and feelings when hearing bad news. A leader's job is to stay in the moment and gather the facts without being caught up in negative thoughts.
Say thank you. How you respond in this moment will matter the next time your employee has bad news to share (and they will!). Yelling and criticizing someone will decrease the likelihood that they will share negative news in the future.
Surround yourself with people who are comfortable sharing bad news. Don't focus on people who only bring you solutions. Rather, look for those who can share openly - even if it is critical or negative feedback.
Ask for bad news more often than good news. Leaders can get in the trap of only looking for good news. Search for things that are going wrong in the organization more than what is going well.
It can be difficult to respond well to bad news. But people will remember your response. How you respond is an opportunity to show how you value your team members, their ideas, and how you want bad news to be handled in the workplace.