How to Break Bad News

Breaking bad news to a friend or your team is never easy and I haven’t come across anyone that looks forward to doing it.  Here are some useful tips.

Be honest and inform the affected stakeholders as soon as possible.  No one likes to hear bad news but it’s better to rip off the band aid sooner than later.

State the facts.  Gather as many details in a reasonable timeframe.  Don’t lie or stretch the truth.  Just provide the plain facts.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on

Get creative and come up with a list of feasible solutions before sharing the negative news.  This will show you are proactive and put in some effort beforehand.

Prepare a formal presentation if time allows.  Present the current situation and impacts to the project.  Be prepared to answer questions and listen to your team’s feedback intently.  Encourage brainstorming since it’s difficult to discover all the possible solutions on your own.  A high performing team will be motivated to help you to achieve the project’s goals.  Review the project’s risk register on a regular basis to limit surprises.  Issues will always pop up and you don’t have to resolve them solo.  Learning how to communicate bad news is a great skill to have in your arsenal.

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