Generally, people don’t like to deliver “bad” news, either professionally or personally. Why? Usually, they are concerned about the reaction that may result from initiating that confrontation. They don’t want to be questioned, or get into a heated discussion. They are passionate about the issue and don’t understand why the counterpart doesn’t see things in the same light as they do.
In all cases, but specifically in the business environment, it is critical to have open and honest discussions, regardless of what the message is that needs to be communicated, or what the reaction may be. A critical part of the role of a leader is to manage employee performance. Great leaders deal directly with difficult situations; they will not sweep them under the rug and hope that they go away.
This is one of those things that does get easier over time. The more you do it, the better you get at it. With this said, from an overall perspective, the trick to having a difficult discussion around a situation that does not meet your expectations (e.g. a project that went astray, poor performance, inappropriate behavior, etc.) is to BE PREPARED. You don’t have to remove the personal aspect, but you need to control it and channel it in a way that is direct, detailed, decisive and documented.
Taking this a step further, here are the four “D’s” to delivering “bad” news:
- Direct – Say what you mean in simple, direct and respectful terms. Do not try to sugar coat things. You need to get your message across and the recipient needs to understand EXACTLY what you mean. Generally, people only hear what they want to hear in discussions such as these. If you try to soften the message with compliments or other niceties, the recipient will not hear what they need to hear – where the issues exist. Once you get your message across, take a break and listen. It is always important throughout this process to hear the “other side of the story”.
- Detailed – Be prepared. Have concrete examples of your position and how the person could have better met your expectations. As the recipient is going to have reasons and excuses for what happened, it is critical to have support for your views. Quite honestly, the recipient deserves from you the detail behind your position. This is how they will learn, whether it be within your organization or in their next endeavor.
- Decisive – Have a concrete conclusion. Do not leave the outcome, next steps or disciplinary action for another time. Take action while the recipient is clear on the issue and the matter is still warm. Make sure that the outcome takes into account any new information learned, fits the situation and the next steps are clear and understood. Ask the recipient if they understand what has happened and what the result is…and get a verbal “yes”.
- Documented – When all is said and done, take the time to document all of the above. It is critical that this be on file, regardless of the outcome. Documentation is important if the facts ever need to be revisited.
Prism Partners International can help you develop leaders in your organization by identifying and developing the skills they will need to be successful. Through our proprietary rating process and development plans, we can isolate the areas for improvement, including those around communication skills, and hold the employee and their supervisor accountable to make the necessary adjustments for success.
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