How to Deliver Bad News

“The easy thing to do isn’t always the right thing to do.” 

From time to time, we can all find ourselves needing to give bad news to someone like our boss, friend, neighbor, or child. Sometimes giving bad news is easy like, “I’m sorry I can’t take you to the concert with me, but I already gave away the ticket.” However, some situations can be harder to deal with like how you tell the new guy you’re dating that you don’t want to see him anymore. Regardless of the situation, if you can follow our simple guidelines on how to deliver bad news, you will do the right thing and be kind to the other person as well.

General Tips to Giving Bad News

  1. Do it in person. If you can actually talk to the person one-on-one that is best. If you can’t then the second best way is to talk to them over the phone. Avoid at all costs giving bad news over text or social media. They deserve better! If you do have to give bad news electronically, then, by all means, take the time to do it nicely and with care. Receiving bad news electronically is bad enough without having to deal with not enough information or a nasty tone in the email.
  2. Find the right place and time. No one likes to be given bad news in public especially if it’s something that is of a private nature or something that might make them emotional. Talk to the person alone, in a quiet or private place, and make sure it’s at a time that is not rushed.
  3. Say it nicely. In recent research, Christine Porath in her book “Mastering Civility” found that how you give bad news – your tone of voice, your facial expression, your demeanor, was actually more important to someone than what you actually said. For example, people don’t appreciate it when you give them a compliment with a sour look on your face, and they would much rather have you tell them you can’t drive carpool anymore if you say it in a kind and caring way.
  4. Find the positive. If there is a silver lining or anything that could be seen as positive help the other person see it. Don’t offer up quotes like, “when a door closes another opens”, but instead, help the person see and understand what they might have gained, learned, overcome and how the situation will get better.



“Ghosting”- Ignoring someone on social media or text. 

The term “ghosting” is a new term to describe how someone cuts another person out of their life by just not answering their texts or responding to any of their social media communication. Some people say it’s easier to ghost someone than to have to give the person bad news in-person and then have to deal with the potential conflict and the other persons’ emotions.

Ghosting is taking the easy way out of a situation and it’s not doing it the right way.  It’s always better to “put on your big girl panties” and just think about the tips written above and find a right time to talk in person, say what you have to nicely and gently, and then help them see any positives. This shows you are a caring and empathic person, and you hope this will also give you good karma if someone ever has to give you bad news.


How to Deliver Bad News

Tips for Giving Bad News At Work

Sometimes work situations are different. You have to give bad news to your department, but yet you have to keep them motivated too. Or, you can’t promote someone even though you promised you would. Below are some tips (in addition to the ones listed above) to help you when giving bad news at work.

  1. State the good news. Before the negative event, what was going well? Find something that was on the upswing that is related to the bad news. It’s important to present this first. Do not ever present the bad news first. If you do that, the audience will often focus on that and you will lose their attention – they won’t even hear the good news.
  2. Present the facts. After the initial good news, lead directly to the bad news. Use figures, research, survey results, etc. to make the results not so personal but analytical.
  3. Avoid excuses and finger-pointing. Nothing is gained from making excuses or throwing others under the bus.
  4. Outline the positive. Discuss lessons learned and what the plan is for moving forward and making improvements.


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