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How to deliver difficult news to your employees

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Bad News

Downsizing, layoffs, pay cuts, benefit changes, restructuring or bad reviews. No matter what the difficult news is or the reason for delivering it, there are certain considerations that must be made in these situations. Here are some tips for senior management on how to make the best out of delivering difficult news to your employees.

Plan ahead. And then plan some more. The bigger the announcement and the more people affected, the more planning is required. Obviously there are different levels of your internal audience. Prepare who will be notified, in what order and with what message.

Avoid delays. Don’t sit on your negative news hoping situations will improve. Once your preparations are made and all your ducks in a row, act in your employees’ best interest and don’t delay. As they say: bad news delayed is bad news compounded.

Bring solutions to the table. Bad news without solutions is worse news. Work with your fellow management team and remaining employees to ensure the team is working together to avoid another similar situation.

Be empathetic. Your message must be human. Empathize with your employees as they take in the difficult news, and try to figure out what to do next. They deserve a compassionate message. Always treat your people with respect and dignity.

Deliver with clarity. To avoid the challenging situation of having more questions than answers, put together an FAQ list and how you will address the answers to those questions during your planning stage. This will help to ensure the receivers of your message are left with little wonder of the direction the company is heading.

Always remember your multiple audiences. Many overlook the chains of people outside of the direct conversation who will be affected by this news. Remember that when delivering bad news, such as employee layoffs, more than just the employees will take notice; your board of directors, clients, customers, investors, partners and media will be listening and watching, and will likely want more information.

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2 Responses to “How to deliver difficult news to your employees”

  1. Mark Jeffers

    Sara…well written though having been through this several times in the past 11 years, I would like to add one more consideration…keeping the information limited to a very inner circle of management personnel before the hard news is delivered. Having this information become leaked before the RIFF act takes place will only cause major headaches for everyone. Love you,

    • Sara Montonati

      Great addition Mark. Thank you for your wise feedback!


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