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Communicating Unfavorable News Requires These Four Guidelines

Recently, I experienced a significant flight delay returning to Boston.

Throughout the nearly three-hour ordeal, we were kept informed, respectfully (even humorously) and in a timely fashion. While no one on the plane would call this a good time, nobody got excited and conversations between the crew and passengers were amicable. 

Nothing festered or spiraled out of control, and thusly, a perfect example of the importance of following four key tenets in communicating unpleasant news to your partners:

1. Out with it. Communicating bad information is just as important, if not more, than communicating positive information. Many companies are great at sharing information about new products and services, but worry about revealing issues or vulnerabilities.  Ill-fated news not revealed, however, has a way of looking worse, so best to bite the bullet as soon as possible.

2. All together now. Don’t saddle your Account Managers with bearing the brunt of delivering unfortunate news.  Give them the tools and context for communicating with your partners, but putting your leaders front and center will send a strong message of respect. Chances are that issues will be resolved quickly if company leaders are chartered with sharing the responsibility of communicating.  Few people enjoy being in the hot seat.

3. Steady as she goes. Updating partners regularly on the status of the issue at hand until it is resolved is critical to minimizing a charged reaction and maximizes trust. Partners want to know that you have your arms around the problem, are working it, and see progress. And, then, be careful about over-promising when an issue will be resolved if you don’t know for sure.

4. Partners are people too.  While typically not a good time for a “knock-knock” joke, a little well-placed humor goes a long way to humanizing a bad situation.  This, of course, depends on the severity of the situation and for how long it’s been allowed to fester.  In other words, there’s a fine line between a flip response and one that lightens the mood.

Communicating unfavorable news requires intestinal fortitude, authenticity, regularity, and a little humor.  May you rarely have to call upon those tips in resolving issues for your partners (or otherwise)!

July 25, 2013  ·  

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#11 | On May 21, 2019, Cheryl said:

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