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Delivering Bad News Well Can Actually Strengthen Your Relationships with Colleagues

  • Wednesday, 15 June 2016 09:58

The financial crisis hit hard in 1997.  Dato had just told me to let go of two of my office administrators; it was tough delivering bad news.

I had to be honest and I needed to be empathetic so as not to damage a friendship cultivated through the past 10 years. The ladies would be devastated. I had to prepare myself emotionally, and plan just what I needed to say so as not to worsen an already tense situation.

Putting myself in their shoes I could imagine their reaction, their disappointment; their outburst and feelings of betrayal as they realize what they might lose with the bad news. I had to stay composed and professional so that they would stay calm.

What could be offered to them as possibly good solutions to this dilemma?  What would be some positive and mitigating concessions? I had to negotiate with Dato for a more than equitable MSS offer; air tickets for a holiday in Australia; full bursaries for their children’s tuition; I contacted colleagues to consider meeting them for possible positions. Had to have these sewn up before meeting them.

Lunch was at the Sheraton within the week. I didn’t want the grapevine to damage the situation with Dato’s “whisperers” always at the workplace. The setting would be private and quiet enough to allow my staff to cope and respond comfortably, and they like Western!

Actually they had already got wind of the rumors and “were waiting for the ‘execution’ email (their quote)”. I was glad they didn’t grovel in despair and anger.  They had expected the news, and were watching what I would do.

They were amused and appreciated the personal gestures I had taken. The face to face discussion was a welcome relieve, rather than the dreaded mail.  I had opportunity to leverage on empathy, body language and interactive exchange over an excellent meal.

All I had needed was to be honest and clear about the situation; apologize, be compassionate, validate their emotions, hear them out, and do what I could to make an unpleasant decision more acceptable.

We are still good friends today.


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  • Last modified on Monday, 20 March 2017 12:29


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