Giving negative feedback or bad news to your team can be very upsetting for everyone involved. Common reactions range from anger to disbelief, defensiveness to panic. It’s almost impossible to predict how people will react.
As a manager or business leader, it’s likely you’ll experience this situation at least once in your career. The best thing you can do, for both your team and for yourself, is to be prepared and devise tactics and strategies that ease the situation, help you work on any issues in a constructive way, and enable you to support your workmates the best you can.
Read on for some top-level guidance on how to manage the impact of bad news on your team.
Frame the feedback or news constructively
Positioning your feedback in a sensitive and useful way will help ease the blow to your team members. Few of us respond well to negative opinions about ourselves or our work, after all. Deep down we know we aren’t perfect, and most people are open to recommendations, providing they are done in the right way. Here are some tips to help you frame your news or feedback constructively.
Consider every team member individually
If the bad news involves more than one team member, make sure you take into account each person’s particular situation, their individual concerns, and the communication styles, methods and tactics they are likely to respond best to. Unless the situation demands it, the news should initially be delivered 1-1 and in a confidential space with plenty of time set aside for taking questions. If your team members are happy to do so, you could organize a group discussion as a follow-up but this must be beneficial to all concerned and with confidentiality assured.
Respect your teams’ privacy
The last thing your colleague’s need during this challenging time is to feel like everyone in the company knows their business. If team members are being laid off or if others outside your team need to be kept up to date on the situation, make sure it’s absolutely on a need to know basis and that your personnel department and the colleagues concerned are aware of how the information is being shared. Aside from the negative impact of office gossip on your team, this can also have a toxic effect on the wider workplace and make people worry about their own position in the company.
Encourage your team to move on
No matter how impactful or upsetting the news or feedback is, there comes a time when it’s time to move on. If you’ve taken a good amount of time and resource to support your team through the news and had productive and useful discussions about how to move on, then - quite simply - that’s what needs to happen next. We’ve probably all been in situations, personal or professional, where we’ve allowed ourselves to be self-indulgent and feel a little bit too sorry for ourselves, for too long. Encouraging teammates to empower themselves and take control of the situation is a far better option than hiding away from the world.
Offer ongoing support or advise on alternative resources
Naturally, this might not be appropriate or possible in every situation but if you can offer a sympathetic ear or follow-up support for your colleague’s plans, it’ll be appreciated. If that’s not doable then why not put a document together with details of organizations or resources that can help your colleagues in the future. This could include guides on how to update and enhance their resume or some recommendations on training opportunities and recruiters. Showing your team that you care about their wellbeing goes a long way.
We hope these tips have helped you discover ways of managing the impact of bad news on your team. No manager welcomes these situations and we hope they’ll never happen to us. But if and when they do, try to approach them sensitively and with the genuine interests of your team in mind. By doing so you can be confident that you’ve done all you can to support them. And hopefully, they’ll look back and remember you for the professional, considerate and valued boss that you’ve always strived to be.
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