How to Give Bad News in Business: 4 Things You Need to Know and Why It Matters

Have you given any consideration to how to give bad news?

Not all times are going to be good times, so this is something that you, as a business leader, need to know how to do and how to do well.  There are a number of ways to break bad news and unfortunately, there are a variety of people that you will encounter in your business dealings to whom you will have to break bad news.

But it’s better to learn about doing it beforehand than having to improvise when the need suddenly arises right?  That’s why, through this post, we’ll explore the idea of how to give bad news in a business setting and what you can do keep things going even when bad times occur.

Delivering Bad News: The Who, Why, and How

When it comes to business leadership, you want to be as multi-faceted as possible in order to increase your chances of both short and long-term success.  This, of course, means that you need to be business-minded, but it also means that you need to be good at dealing with people.

Whether we’re talking about customers, your employees, business partners, or anyone else, the way in which you interact with people will go a long way toward influencing how successful you ultimately are as an entrepreneur.  You want to keep that in mind when it comes to delivering bad news.  So, just how do you approach the problem?

  1. Don’t Wait To Do It – You know that you’re responsible for conveying bad news, so you want to do it as soon as possible. If you wait then, at the very least, you run the risk of people finding out from someone other than you, but it goes much further than that.If there is a delay, your employees may wonder if you value them, your customers may wonder if you can be trusted as a provider, and your colleagues might question your competence as a business leader.When learning about how to give bad news, this is one of the most crucial steps to learn, along with the fact that the problem is unlikely to go away on its own if you just wait.As a small business owner, one challenge you’ll definitely have to face is that of establishing a strong reputation. Being someone who waits to state when something has gone wrong will definitely make achieving that strong reputation much more difficult.
  1. Recognize Opportunity for Yourself – When something goes wrong, it’s easy to be so focused on it that you miss the opportunity to learn from it.  Whatever happened, you obviously want to keep it from repeating in the future. An easy way to do that is to contextualize the event around the news you need to deliver.If you do that, you can easily say “what can I do in the future to keep from making this same mistake?” When you have an answer to that, you can use that information to help convey the message you need to deliver regarding the news.  Running a business is all about continuing to learn and grow, and answering the question of how to give bad news can be rich with learning opportunities.
  1. Recognize Opportunity for Others – If you’re like many other small business owners, then you might not be an expert in absolutely every aspect of your business, and that’s totally fine. Correcting a problem may be a time for one of your employees to shine and show their capabilities.One trait that a good boss possesses is the ability to let team members take the ball and run with it, and something like that might just happen when you need to deliver bad news.Whether the solution is found through collaboration or allowing the employee to do something on their own, you might be able to take the question of how to deliver the bad news and frame the answer through delegation to someone else.


  1. Keep Track of Progress Made – Just like you have a business plan that you follow and hopefully track developments through, you want to make sure that solutions related to any bad news are kept track of so that progress can be noted. Answering the question of how to give bad news can be for nothing if you don’t keep track of what’s being done to avoid the problem in the future, whether it’s related to personnel, customer service, or business to business relations.

Bad news in the world of business can take many forms, and it’s a guarantee that you will encounter many of them throughout your time in running a company.  Specific instances of bad news delivery have their own special aspects, but you can use the tips above for a general approach to any problem that you might encounter.  Like so many other things, learning how to give bad news is something that you will need to master for your company to survive, so you want to take the best possible approach possible.

Remember, running a business successfully does not need to be complicated.  Keep it simple!

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