13 tips for delivering bad news to the boss

Your manager—or even your chief executive-has to know when a project has gone awry or a campaign has hit a roadblock. Try these approaches for clear, professional communication.

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Got bad news for the boss?

I had a supervisor who would go off like a volcano anytime the results that we produced did not meet his expectations. He was so volatile in his reaction to bad news that members of our organization urged him to get professional help to keep the rest of the staff from quitting. When he was caught off guard, nothing seemed to stem his anger.

A situation like that is never easy. Most of the time we would rather jump off a cliff than give bad news to a superior. Nevertheless, there are steps you can take to ease the process—and the response:

1. Don’t wait. Sometimes we put off telling someone that we didn’t get the results we wanted. Yet giving a decision-maker the necessary information to take immediate steps to remedy the situation is important. Deliver it quickly to minimize damage.

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