Magenta publishes guide on how to communicate bad news

We all have to communicate bad news at various points in our lives. Unfortunately, it’s a common occurrence at work. For employers, delivering bad news is a reality of the job, a fact that has come into sharp focus since the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020.

And when it’s your turn to communicate the difficult decisions that are being made to safeguard the future of the business, you will be in the spotlight. If you fail to master the art of delivering bad news respectfully, gracefully and clearly, then the person on the receiving end may suffer more than they have to.

Understandably, the leaders making difficult decisions will feel anxious when the time comes to communicate change. That’s why the team at workplace communication experts Magenta Associates have produced this guide on how to break bad news well.

Download our free guide for some top tips and practical advice on the principles that can be used to guide sensitive communications.

People look to their managers for trusted information and guidance. They will want to be kept informed should any changes affect them or their teams, and they will want to be updated in a clear and timely manner.
We have identified 10 steps to communicate bad news:
  1. Step into their shoes – how would YOU like to hear this news? – then choose the right platform (call, email, video call, face-to-face, etc.) 
  2. Deliver the bad news as soon as possible, and all in one go 
  3. Come armed with solutions – ‘this is what’s happening, and this is what we’re going to do about it’ 
  4. Explain why – offer context and a rationale 
  5. Present a clear vision of the future – but don’t overlook the seriousness of the ‘now’ 
  6. Map out the milestones – what is going to happen and when? 
  7. Be clear about the impact – answer their main question: ‘what will this mean for me?’ 
  8. Avoid ambiguity and pre-empt concerns 
  9. Focus on the positives but don’t sugar-coat it 
  10. Give people the chance to have their say – listen and be empathetic 
Communicating bad news is a complex subject and this guide has merely scratched the surface. The advice provided here will, however, help ensure you approach the challenge in the right way and incorporate the right elements in your communications plan.

For additional communications support, email
or call +44 1273 934295.

Jo Sutherland