How to deliver bad news to your boss

Posted on March 14, 2017 in: Articles

It’s never an easy task. And often it’s downright distasteful. And on occasion it’s dangerous.

We’re talking about the unenviable task of having to deliver bad news to your boss – especially when you share some responsibility for the outcome.

There’s probably no way to make this task fun or the least bit fulfilling.

It’s bound to be painful even if the boss is the world’s best -- because in that case you don’t want to let him or her down. But if the boss is a big grouch, his or her likely reactions may be too awful to contemplate.

Here’s where an insight by Ken Blanchard, co-founder of the Lead Like Jesus Movement and author of the classic bestseller The One Minute Manager, is important to remember:

"The longer you wait to apologize, the sooner your weakness will be perceived as wickedness."

When you don’t meet a supervisor’s expectations, it can undermine trust in your relationship. When you try to hide problems or sugarcoat them, you’re almost certain to shatter what little trust is left.

John Stoker offers 13 tips for making the best of a bad situation in SmartBrief. Here are some of our favorites:

  • Don’t wait to share bad news – in all likelihood, it is getting worse while you procrastinate.
  • Do try to find the right time and place – you don’t want to ambush the boss and you do want time for everyone involved to thoughtfully consider how best to respond.
  • Take responsibility for the role you played in the outcome.
  • Remain calm – it isn’t easy, but it will help keep the situation from becoming more difficult.
  • Have solutions in mind – but don’t try to jump to them too quickly; instead, offer to share them after the initial shock passes.


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