A client asked me about the best way to share bad news, so I tried to share some useful guidelines. Much of this could apply to a manager sharing difficult news with a direct report, as well as a corporate communicator with change management communication responsibilities.
1. Be empathetic
Stating the facts simply and directly is always a good place to start: “We recognize that this will be a significant loss…” and words to this effect can go a long way in building a bridge with your target audience.
2. Be proactive
This is getting out in front of the message. We want to avoid the element of surprise and provide as much warning as possible so that people have a chance to plan for the change. If the announcement involves pay or the reduction of an incentive, legal may require distribution of the message five months in advance of the actual curtailment, so plan accordingly. Test the message with a focus group to anticipate the responses of your wider target audience.
3. Get to the point
Avoid deception of any kind and be as forthright as possible. Avoid spin or beating around the bush. Get to the point quickly and effectively.
4. Anticipate reactions to the change