How to Be Good at Giving Bad News in the Workplace

Workplace shootings and other types of workplace violence have received much attention in the media recently. Though the circumstances surrounding these incidents vary, these violent workplace episodes are often the result of situations in which employees, customers, or other individuals are the recipients of bad news. An example would be an employee who was fired, laid off, or failed a drug test, and reacted negatively to the news.

For many of us, giving bad news is part of our jobs. Unfortunately, when you deliver bad news, you may trigger agitated or even aggressive behavior from the recipient.

According to a fact sheet recently released by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2008 there were 421 workplace shootings and 30 multiple-fatality workplace homicide incidents. Of these, 12 percent involved coworkers and former coworkers as the assailants.

Almost half of these shootings occurred in public buildings; most occurred in the private sector. Eighty-eight percent of the incidents occurred in service-providing industries.

There are ways to deliver bad news while defusing a potential crisis and helping the recipient retain a sense of dignity. Whether you have to give bad news to a client, resident, patient, or coworker, follow these guidelines to prepare in advance and present the information in a way that is tactful and minimizes the possibility of negative reactions. More details please

Prepare your workplace. Consider the furniture arrangement in your workspace. Ensure that it is set up so that you can exit easily if necessary. Don’t ever turn your back on a person who is agitated or angry.

Prepare yourself. When you deliver bad news, be prepared for the possibility of being blamed or insulted if the person takes her anger or disappointment out on you. Try to stay in control and not take these reactions personally. If you become angry, that will only further agitate the other person.

Allow the other person to vent. Without offering advice or judging his behavior, let the recipient release his feelings.

Preserve the other person’s dignity. Deliver bad news privately whenever possible. You can still ask another person to be present as a safety precaution. Always be polite and respectful.

Be objective. Present information in a straightforward but tactful manner. Keep it short and simple.

Listen with empathy. Imagine how you would feel if you were on the receiving end of the bad news. Allow the other person to share her feelings, but don’t get defensive or drawn into an argument.

Offer something. If possible, try to present solutions to the problem. The other person may not be open to suggestions immediately, but he may consider an alternative later. If nothing else, you can always offer him dignity and respect.

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