Don’t Kill the Messenger

Image courtesy of A is for Angie's photostream

If I do say so myself, I was the BEST little sister.  My siblings are 6 and 7 years older than me.  While they were in High School, whenever it was report card time, I would literally run home from school on Fridays so that I could intercept their report cards before my folks got home from work.  That way they had one more weekend of fun before they got in trouble for a bad grade.  On Monday, I would again run home from school (uphill, both ways, barefoot, fighting off bears with my loose leaf notebook!) to slip the report card back in the mail.

Nobody likes delivering bad news.  Robert Bies, a professor of management at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business defines 10 Commandments for Delivering Bad News.  Here’s my spin on the top three.

Thou Shalt Never Surprise- When projects are not going as planned and delays are imminent keep all involved parties in the loop.  Wouldn’t you want to know, in advance, if a product or service wasn’t going to arrive on time before finding out at the last minute?  Give your customers the same respect.

The same is true for an employee that isn’t meeting expectations.  I believe that employees should never learn anything new at their quarterly or annual performance review.  If an employee needs guidance, do it today.  Do not wait for 3, 6, or 9 months until it is time for their review and then tell them everything they are doing “wrong”.

Thou Shalt Always Bring Solutions- If I ruled the world, this is the first lesson I would teach to kindergartners.  You do what you do because you are smart.  Prove it.  When delivering difficult news to a customer, an employee, or even a family member, explain the problem and offer solutions.  Explain the pros and cons behind the solution in regards to time, cost to implement, and possible results.  Be prepared to stand behind the solution you think would best work.

Thou Shalt Always Follow Up and Follow Through- Your customer agrees to an extension, an employee comes in on their day off, the difficult news does not end there.  Be sure to close all loose ends and follow through on any promises.  The last thing you need is more bad news to deliver.

Take a minute to think about the last time you had to deliver bad news.  Did you follow these commandments?  If not, plan now for what you will do next time you have less than desirable news to deliver.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *