Delivering Bad News to Employees

In an ideal world, conversations with employees would always center on great things – soaring profits, promotions earned, awards won. Unfortunately, the real world dictates that difficult conversations be had from time to time. Sadly, hard times are a fact of life. Profits tank, organizational changes occur, and people need to be laid off. Sometimes, even more tragic news must be conveyed, such as the death of a colleague or treasured client.

While no one wants the difficult task of sharing bad news with the workforce, it’s a task that must be done. Such conversations must be handled with the utmost sensitivity and tact in order to minimize the impact on employees’ psyches and morale.

Here are a few tips for handling difficult workplace conversations:

Talk Early – Don’t wait until the end of the workday to deliver bad news. Doing so will only prolong your agony, as you will be dreading the task that awaits you. Chances are your employees will pick up the vibe that something is wrong, creating an uncomfortable atmosphere and adding grist to the rumor mill. If you need to have a difficult conversation, initiate it as early in the workday as possible. This gives employees the opportunity to let the news ruminate and ask any questions that come to mind.

Be Honest – Regardless of what news you have to deliver, be sure to follow the old adage, ‘Honesty is the best policy’. You may be tempted to hide some details or mislead the employees so they feel better about what you are telling them. (Downplaying the breadth of an upcoming layoff, for example, so as to not cause widespread panic.) Avoid jargon or buzzwords. Speak in terms that are easy to understand and share all information that is available at the time. Employees will accept the news far better if they don’t later find out you failed to tell the entire story.

Tell Everyone at Once – Unless the matter is confidential, it’s best to address the entire workforce at once, if possible. That increases the chance that everyone will feel they were treated fairly. It also lessens the likelihood that employees who have not yet received the news will be given misleading information by those who have already been addressed. And last but not least, it makes the task of delivering bad news easier on you because you will only have to do it once.

Invite Questions – Whatever the news, employees are bound to have questions. “How did this happen?” “Is there anything we can do to make things better?” Be sure to make yourself and any other appropriate members of management available to answer each and every one of their questions right then and there, as well as in the coming days and weeks. There’s nothing worse than hearing bad news, but then not being able to fill in the gaps.

For assistance handling your toughest HR challenges, contact High Profile Staffing today.

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