There is only one thing worse than delivering bad news to your boss. That is not delivering bad news when you know trouble is brewing.
It is a cardinal sin to let your boss be surprised by bad news.
No organization escapes bad news forever. Budgets are not met. Deliveries are late. Machines don’t work. People are caught with their hands in the cookie jar.
Job Tip: It is essential to your career success to learn how to deliver bad news, as well as how to receive it.
There are at least four major things wrong with failing to blow the whistle when you see bad news coming. Be aware of them as you career guides as you strive to reach your career goals.
First, ignoring bad news won’t make it go away. It’s bound to surface sooner or later, probably at the worst possible time.
Second, most problems can be fixed, wholly or in part, if addressed soon enough.
Third, left unattended, most problems simply get bigger and more difficult with time.
Fourth, when you fail to report the bad news, you are leaving your boss vulnerable to being blindsided with a problem and the accusation from his boss that he doesn’t have control of his organization.
Don’t Expect To Be A Hero
Forget any notion that you may be a hero when you have to report bad news, no matter who’s at fault. Chances are you will take some bruises; whistleblowers are not popular. In ancient times, kings cut off the heads of messengers who brought bad news.
There is really no easy way to report bad news; however, you can take some steps to help diffuse the situations and ease the pain.
• Have all of the facts in hand. Report them succinctly; no dodging and ducking.
• Be patient; let the boss vent his or her anger and frustration.
• Offer a solution, or at least some way to cut the losses.
• Don’t be defensive. If you are to blame, take the heat yourself; don’t try to lay it off on others. However, if a group of which you are a part is at fault be sure you report in the “we” mode. Try to depersonalize the matter as much as possible.
• Be sure to make a practice of reporting good news, too. Avoid being identified as one who always bears ill tidings.
How To Receive Bad News
Job Tip: Just as it is important to quickly and accurately report bad news, it is necessary to know how to handle bad news that is reported to you.
• Stay calm and collected when an associate reports bad news to you. If you have a reputation of blowing up when such reports are made you discourage the flow of information that is necessary to function as a leader.
• Don’t go off half-cocked. Gather all the facts: who, what, when, where, why? Define the locale, type and extent of the problem as quickly as possible. Assess the damage. And doublecheck your information.
• Initiate damage control asap.
• Report the situation to your boss in the same fashion as you expect to be reported to. If you have be able to clear up the problem, report it anyway. Get credit for handling the matter without taking up his time.
If you have not been able to eliminate the problem, explain the steps you have already taken to prevent further damage, along with your recommendations for eliminating the cause of the problem.
Hopefully, you are working for an organization where the messenger gets shot only if he’s late with the news.