Relaying Bad News: How To Communicate with Employees

Communication with your employees is of critical importance. In fact, research shows that leadership communication is the top internal communication factor that “statistically correlates to employee engagement.” You simply cannot emphasize how important communication is within the workplace. Between improving engagement, team building, and improving overall trust between management and employees, it’s no secret: the more honest and authentic communication, the better. Positive and uplifting information is one thing, but it can be much more difficult when it comes to relaying bad news to your employees. 

Just because it’s more uncomfortable to relay “bad news” to your employees doesn’t mean it has to be overwhelming. At Projections, our specialty is creating effective communication solutions for your organization. This means we have the knowledge and the expertise you and your leaders need to deliver information to your employees. We have had decades of experience helping organizations overcome their struggles with new hire orientationunion organizing campaignsleader & supervisor training, and more! We’ll cover some of the most helpful ways you can improve communication in your workplace, and specifically how to relay “bad news.”

Communication Is Key

Before we touch on the best ways to deliver unpleasant information in your workplace, it’s important first to establish the importance of communication as a whole. Of course, the key to effective communication and transparency is first and foremost maintaining an open-door policy in your organization. Your employees must feel comfortable coming to management and leadership with any feedback or concerns – whether it’s positive or negative. While it may even be tough for you to solicit feedback from your team members or to provide that feedback back to them, this is essential to fostering a sense of trust and positive workplace culture. A positive company culture ultimately means lower retention, improved employee morale, and higher productivity in your organization.

As you can see, communication is the foundation of your business. It affects everything from trust and transparency, to team building, to positive workplace culture. And it goes without saying that once you establish open communication lines with your team, it will become much easier and less uncomfortable to relay bad news when the time comes. Of course, things aren’t always going to be rainbows and sunshine at work, and your employees are well aware of this. This doesn’t necessarily make it “easier” to deliver the unfortunate information to them, but we’ll share how to improve the process between your leaders and your employees.

Tips for Relaying Bad News

Our podcast, ProjectHR, has had some incredible interviews regarding communication and specifically navigating employee communication during a global pandemic with the COVID-19 crisis. We understand that it puts you as a leader/supervisor in a difficult position when it comes to communicating bad news to your team members. The good news is, it doesn’t have to be! The following are some critical and beneficial tips when delivering bad news to employees.

effective communication in the workplace

Keep These In Mind When Relaying Bad News

  1. Start with your leaders. Management must be on the same page when it comes to relaying bad news to your team. This will prevent misinformation, confusion, and wires being crossed if news needs to be delivered by more than one supervisor.
  2. Empathy, empathy, empathy. The golden rule is to treat others as you want to be treated, and servant leadership means understanding where your employees are coming from and how they may feel when you deliver the news.
  3. Honesty and transparency are key. Use clear, direct language when sharing news and be as open and honest about the situation as you can be. This will avoid confusion and, as stated in tip number one, will ensure the same message is broadcast to the entire team, even if more than one person delivers it.
  4. Prepare for questions and venting. Depending on what “bad news” is being delivered, you can expect that employees will have several questions, and at the very least, will have feedback and potentially pushback. Allow them to voice their concerns and opinions, even if you don’t have a solution for them right now. 
  5. Enlist the help of your Human Resources professionals. HR helps keep the “human” aspect in the workplace. Remember, we’re all humans with opinions and feelings – being at work doesn’t change that, and your HR team is there to help you communicate in a way that fosters trust and expresses empathy.

Communication Solutions and More

In addition to the tips listed above when it comes to specifically relaying bad news, we’ve also written about some of the ways to improve overall communication in the workplace. Furthermore, we’ve shared some common communication mistakes that leaders make. We hope that both of those can be beneficial to you in terms of what to do and what not to do when communicating with your teams – whether that be positive or negative news. 

Ultimately, we’re here to help you with all communication solutions in your organization to positively impact employee engagement and retention and help you build better leaders who can connect with team members at all levels!

how engaged are your employees

About the Author Jennifer Orechwa

In over 25 years of helping companies connect with their employees, Jennifer has gained a unique perspective on what it takes to build a culture of engagement. By blending a deep understanding of labor and employee relations with powerful digital marketing knowledge, Jennifer has helped thousands of companies achieve behavioral change at a cultural level.

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