Many people have heard that it’s our reaction to bad news that causes stress, but the way it is delivered also has a big impact on the those affected. And since most managers or businesses will have to deliver it from time-to-time, it’s a good idea to have a protocol in advance. LEAD – Listen, Earn, Acknowledge and Deliver – can help mitigate the bad news and make your job easier.
If what you have to say will affect just one person, begin by listening: ask open-ended questions to ease the impact of the news and establish some rapport. Ensure you’re both either seated or standing and in neutral territory whenever possible.
If you’re delivering the news to a group, you should also begin with questions and encourage them to interact with one another before you start to talk.
EARN respect by showing you’ve heard them and explore their perceptions/opinions/feelings on the issue. Try to use a statement or a few words about what you’ve heard to begin saying what you’ve come to say. For example, if you’re doing an employee review and the results are poor, ask first how they think they’ve done. This gives you an opening to gently relay what supervisors/colleagues/clients have said about their performance.
Acknowledge their feelings. No matter how emotional they become, part of your job is to justify what they’re feeling. Negating feelings instills fear and makes you the enemy. Instead, use words like, “this must be very hard for you.” Again, remember your listening skills and, if appropriate, acknowledge your part in what they’re feeling… i.e. “What I’ve said has really upset you. This can’t be easy for you.”
Deliver communications clearly and calmly. Make sure they get the news, understand the impact and know if there are any options available to them.