5 Ways to Soften the Blow of Bad News for Employees
Let’s face it. There’s no easy way to tell employees that the company is losing money, cuts have to be made or, in some cases, things just aren’t working out due personality differences, poor production or bad behavior. Maybe it’s just a bonus being withheld, a promotion being denied or an all-out termination. Either way, most people don’t enjoy delivering the bad news. It’s never fun. However, there are ways to make the bad news an easier pill to swallow.
Here are five ways to make it easier for you and the employee.
1. Be prepared: It is important that you are fully prepared not just for what you are going to say, but how you are going to respond to certain questions or reactions. Being prepared for the conversation, armed with reasoning and explanation, makes it easier for the employee to grasp the meaning of the discussion. Being mentally ready for any and all possible responses helps keep the delivery smooth. It is important to stay steady, avoid negative confrontation and give a meaningful explanation.
2. Send warning: It is okay for managers to warn employees as to what is coming. When setting up the meeting, be direct. It is okay to be upfront in the memo, email or message that announces the unavoidable termination. This helps the employee ready for the conversation, avoids spontaneous emotional response and makes it easier on everybody.
3. Convey in a way they can hear: Do not shut them down. Speak to the employee with respect and understanding so that they can listen, hear every word and not clam up at the beginning of the speech. Employees need to learn from the experience, be it about a holiday bonus or even a termination as it gives them the opportunity to grow. Speak to them at their level, not as somebody looking down. That way, they can hear you.
4. Focus on specifics: If cutting a specific employee’s bonus, job benefit or position, be ready with specific examples and focus on those. Repeat if you have to. It is important that the employee, if he or she caused the situation, fully understand what led to it. For example, if the employee has a poor attendance record, show the exact dates missed and where you warned the employee. Specific examples are hard to argue with and help the employee take responsibility for the situation.
5. Validation: It is important, if the employee gets emotional, to validate that employee’s feelings and concerns. Even when there is no room for negotiation, it makes it easier for them to handle the situation emotionally if you show an understanding of those emotions. It is not easy to lose a bonus or get kicked to the curb and, no matter how rotten the staff member was, validation helps avoid a serious confrontation.