Good Ways to Deliver Bad News

Delivering bad news is never fun for any of us, but if you are a CEO of a company it definitely adds to the difficulty. Not only is your reputation on the line but you represent the company and how your employees and the public view you, they also view the company in the same way.  You have the whole company’s reputation at stake when speaking on its behalf. What you say should be something that you would want anyone to hear.

Leaking Information

IBM CEO, Ginni Rometty, is an example of this. After the disappointing earnings report on April 18, Rometty released a video to all 434,000 employees in which she admitted that IBM hadn’t “transformed rapidly enough.” She called out the sales staff for missing out on several big deals. “We were too slow,” she said. “The result? It didn’t get done.” The press got wind of her message, and Rometty’s now accused of the corporate equivalent of yelling at her children in public. (Suddath) Always keep in mind that internal information can be leaked to outside sources. Being clear and direct is a positive but being degrading and placing blame is not acceptable. Keep in mind that what you are communicating to your employees should be something that you don’t mind your stakeholders hearing.

Focus on the Issue

When there is a big crisis, you must be ready to own the mistakes, express regret, and show that actions are being made to correct them and move forward. One of the most egregious in recent history was former BP CEO’s Tony Hayward’s handling of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, in which 11 people lost their lives and billions of gallons of oil ended up in the Gulf of Mexico. (Andersen) His infamous words “I want my life back” remind us that when you have to deliver bad news, you should put your self-pity to the side. Stakeholders would have much rather heard that he understands the extremity of the spill as well as the relentless efforts that were being made to clean the water and rescue wildlife, as well as what actions are in place to keep this from happening again. (Owen) His words made the public feel that he was being insensitive about the concerns of the oil spill in 2010 and thinking of only himself instead of focusing on how he was going to assist in the efforts to make this bad situation better. This reminds us that even though you are being impacted by this, make it about them not you. Always keep in mind that you need your stakeholder’s support and that they are depending on your to be a strong leader that takes ownership when something bad happens.

Handling Bad News

Here are some ways that you can better handle delivering bad news:

  • First speak up and be credible by giving accurate information.
  • Come up with a plan right away and communicate it.
  • Don’t put it off because it is always better that the accurate information comes directly from you. Take responsibility for what has happened and show empathy.
  • Listen with courtesy and respect to the response.
  • Communicate the next steps of the plan.
  • Do what you said you were going to do. Repeat as needed. (Andersen)

Good News

To end on a good note…the founder of one of Turkey’s most successful brands, the food delivery company Yemeksepeti, in May sold his 15-year-old company to Germany’s Delivery Hero for $589 million. $27 million is going to 114 of the company’s 370 employees. With the typical employee earning between $1,000 and $2,000 a month, the average $237,000 bonus works out to roughly 150 months of wages, per CNN Money. (CEO gives employees “life changing” bonus) This bad news of the company being sold, turned out to be the best news to 114 of its employees. The news of the bonus would be easy to deliver, however, telling the 256 employees that they will not be receiving the bonus because they have not been with the company longer than two years would be more difficult.

Works Cited

Andersen, Erica. “How Great Leaders Deliver Bad News.” 6 March 2013. Forbes. <http://www.forbes.com/sites/erikaandersen/2013/03/06/how-great-leaders-deliver-bad-news/&gt;.

Beam, Christopher. “Oil Slick: How BP is handling its P.R. Disaster.” 21 October 2015. Slate. <http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2010/05/oil_slick.html&gt;.

Bies, Robert. “The 10 Commandments for Delivering Bad News.” 30 May 2012. Wiki How. <http://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesleadershipforum/2012/05/30/10-commandments-for-delivering-bad-news/&gt;.

“CEO gives employees “life changing” bonus.” 30 July 2015. USA Today. <http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2015/07/30/ceo-sells-company-gives-employees-life-changing-bonus/30878901/&gt;.

Mullane, Denise Lenci and John. “COMMENT: Communicating with the public: how BP told the Macondo story.” 6 December 2010. Oil and Gas Journal. <http://www.ogj.com/articles/print/volume-108/issue-46/general-interest/comment-communicating-with-the-public.html&gt;.

Owen, Jo. “BP Oil Spill Crisis Management: How Not to Do it.” 11 June 2010. CBS News. <http://www.cbsnews.com/news/bp-oil-spill-crisis-management-how-not-to-do-it/&gt;.

Suddath, Claire. “The Right Way for a CEO to Deliver Bad News.” 9 May 2013. Bloomberg Business. <http://www.bloomberg.com/bw/articles/2013-05-09/the-right-way-for-a-ceo-to-deliver-bad-news&gt;.

Team, Mind Tools Editorial. “Delivering Bad News.” n.d. Mind Tools. <https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/bad-news.htm&gt;.

Weber, Erin McClam and Harry R. “BP’s Failures made worse by P.R. mistakes.” 11 June 2010 . NBC News. <http://www.nbcnews.com/id/37647218/ns/business-world_business/t/bps-failures-made-worse-pr-mistakes/#.Vikx1418OUk&gt;.

Witt, Chris. “How Good Leaders Can Deliver Bad News.” 21 October 2015. Reliable Plant. <http://www.reliableplant.com/Read/17101/how-good-leaders-can-deliver-bad-news&gt;.

 

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