how to communicate bad news 300x225 How to Communicate Bad News to Your BossI don’t have to tell you that not everything at work is always smooth sailing.  Sometime things are delayed, mistakes are made, wrong numbers are published.  It may be your fault, it may be a bad circumstance, or a combination of both.   What do you say when your boss wants a progress report and things are not going so well?

Well, not all is lost.  Just because something negative happened or is happening with your work or your project doesn’t mean you cannot salvage the situation with some good communication with your boss.  Here are six tips of how you can communicate bad news to your boss to minimize its impact and bounce back quickly.

  1. Prepare for your meeting – spend some time to do some introspection and analyze what led to this bad news.  Be prepared with answers to the following questions – What happened?  What went wrong and what have you learned? What do you plan to do going forward to fix the issue?  What help do you need from your boss?  Your boss may not ask these questions but you may want to guide the conversation this way in the meeting.
  2. Don’t lie - During the meeting, don’t even think of lying and saying everything is fine.  Your boss will find out eventually.  The worse thing you can do is keep your boss in the dark.  If she hears the bad news from her boss asking questions about what went wrong, you have just blindsided your boss making her look bad and digging yourself into a bigger hole.
  3. Stick to the facts, be diplomatic and accountable – communicate to your boss what happened factually and try your best not to point fingers at anyone.    The moment you start pointing fingers, you will look more guilty.  Instead focus on stating what happened and what you think went wrong.  If you think you are partially responsible, come clean and state that.   By you stating you know what errors you made, you minimize the work for your boss and shows that you are already learning
  4. Don’t blame it all on yourself either – It also doesn’t help to say it’s all your fault.  Most bad news are affected by a bad judgment call, circumstance, or lack of information.  Be fair to yourself and others.
  5. Listen, Listen, Listen – Once you have communicated the bad news, pause to listen and make sure you answer all questions or concerns.  She will ask questions so she feels like she can communicate what happened to her boss effectively if needed
  6. Don’t dump the problem on your boss.  Discuss how you will solve it moving forward- Even though she asked for progress, every boss that hears bad news also wants to know how you plan to fix it going forward.   So once you are done answering her questions about what happened and what went wrong, don’t end the meeting there.  Come prepared with a plan of how to move forward and what help you need from her to turn things around.   This way the meeting will end on a positive note and you are part of the solution to the problem at hand.

This kind of conversation is always nerve-racking, but remember no one is perfect.  We all make mistakes.  The key is catching that mistake early, proactively communicate the bad news, be accountable and most importantly focus the conversation on how to turn things around going forward.   Good luck at your job!  I am always in your corner

- Lei

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