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How You Should Deliver Bad News To The Boss

How You Should Deliver Bad News To The Boss

Nobody likes to present bad news. Delivering bad news to a supervisor or your boss is always a scary situation. Even if you have a very good relationship with your boss, there are going to be some situations you probably feel uncomfortable with, such as disclosing bad news or any a mistake you have made.

By learning a few tips on how to present bad work-related news to your boss, you can save your work relationships rather than damage them. Giving someone bad news is never easy, but there are better and worse ways to do it.

Here are some ways to approach your boss with bad news.

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1. Prepare yourself emotionally.

Bad news can be stressful for anyone who is involved in the conversation. To manage this stress, it is important to prepare yourself .Take some time to calm your mind and think about what you want to say. If you do this, your emotions will be controlled. By speaking in a calm and clear manner, you will demonstrate that you are prepared and professional. As such, you are less likely to make the situation worse.  Avoid getting overly emotional or acting overly sympathetic. The news might be bad, but you are still at work and dealing with a superior, so conduct yourself accordingly. Remember that your attitude and the clarity of your message are two very important components in this conversation.

2. Tell only your boss.

Don’t deliver bad news casually or in passing. In other words, establish a situation and a context for the conversation, instead of just throwing it at someone. Don’t share the bad work news with your colleagues. It might make you feel better to rehearse how to tell your supervisor with someone else first, but the news should go to your boss directly. Leave it to the boss to decide whether the whole office needs to know.

3. Bring the whole story to the table.

When you tell your boss bad news, give him all the information. Skipping some details might seem like a good way to soften the blow, but your boss will need all the information in order to handle the situation properly and will appreciate your honesty.

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After you deliver bad news, you can explain reasons and causes. Precisely, you should explain what happened as well as the steps you took to minimize the risk. Your supervisor or boss would want to know this information, and he has a right to know it. Avoid including your opinion or advice when you deliver bad news, unless you are asked to share your thoughts or views. Without permission, adding your personal views is unprofessional and will not be helpful to your boss at this stage.

4. Get ready to answer the questions.

Get yourself prepared for the queries your boss could ask about the bad news you’re sharing or about potential solutions to the problematic situation. Make sure you are already aware of all the facts associated with the news, causes and possible techniques to correct the situation.

5. Stand unbiased and be an objective party.

Being biased and passing liability to others will not solve the problem. Instead, it will portray you as a negative and selfish person—the opposite of what you want.

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Identifying the responsible person behind the any bad situation isn’t necessary to solve the problem immediately. The best way to handle the situation is this: you should forget the reason until a solution has been found. Avoiding any allegations on the spot will helps you to avoid looking like you’re stabbing another employee in the back to save face.

6. Provide solutions.

Before you deliver bad news to your boss, contemplate possible ways to solve the problem. Try to discuss with your boss the specific steps you have already taken and express your ideas for getting fruitful results.

Remember, delivering bad news in a better way can certainly strengthen your relationship with colleagues. Hence, it’s certainly worth learning how to do it effectively! Don’t take the reaction of your supervisor or boss personally and remember that you’re just doing your job.

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Featured photo credit: huffpost.com via i.huffpost.com

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Tayyab Babar

Tayyab is a PR/Marketing consultant. He writes about work, productivity and tech tips at Lifehack.

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Last Updated on March 29, 2021

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

When I left university I took a job immediately, I had been lucky as I had spent a year earning almost nothing as an intern so I was offered a role. On my first day I found that I had not been allocated a desk, there was no one to greet me so I was left for some hours ignored. I happened to snipe about this to another employee at the coffee machine two things happened. The first was that the person I had complained to was my new manager’s wife, and the second was, in his own words, ‘that he would come down on me like a ton of bricks if I crossed him…’

What a great start to a job! I had moved to a new city, and had been at work for less than a morning when I had my first run in with the first style of bad manager. I didn’t stay long enough to find out what Mr Agressive would do next. Bad managers are a major issue. Research from Approved Index shows that more than four in ten employees (42%) state that they have previously quit a job because of a bad manager.

The Dream Type Of Manager

My best manager was a total opposite. A man who had been the head of the UK tax system and was working his retirement running a company I was a very junior and green employee for. I made a stupid mistake, one which cost a lot of time and money and I felt I was going to be sacked without doubt.

I was nervous, beating myself up about what I had done, what would happen. At the end of the day I was called to his office, he had made me wait and I had spent that day talking to other employees, trying to understand where I had gone wrong. It had been a simple mistyped line of code which sent a massive print job out totally wrong. I learn how I should have done it and I fretted.

My boss asked me to step into his office, he asked me to sit down. “Do you know what you did?” I babbled, yes, I had been stupid, I had not double-checked or asked for advice when I was doing something I had not really understood. It was totally my fault. He paused. “Will you do that again?” Of course I told him I would not, I would always double check, ask for help and not try to be so clever when I was not!

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“Okay…”

That was it. I paused and asked, should I clear my desk. He smiled. “You have learnt a valuable lesson, I can be sure that you will never make a mistake like that again. Why would I want to get rid of an employee who knows that?”

I stayed with that company for many years, the way I was treated was a real object lesson in good management. Sadly, far too many poor managers exist out there.

The Complete Catalogue of Bad Managers

The Bully

My first boss fitted into the classic bully class. This is so often the ‘old school’ management by power style. I encountered this style again in the retail sector where one manager felt the only way to get the best from staff was to bawl and yell.

However, like so many bullies you will often find that this can be someone who either knows no better or is under stress and they are themselves running scared of the situation they have found themselves in.

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The Invisible Boss

This can either present itself as management from afar (usually the golf course or ‘important meetings) or just a boss who is too busy being important to deal with their staff.

It can feel refreshing as you will often have almost total freedom with your manager taking little or no interest in your activities, however you will soon find that you also lack the support that a good manager will provide. Without direction you may feel you are doing well just to find that you are not delivering against expectations you were not told about and suddenly it is all your fault.

The Micro Manager

The frustration of having a manager who feels the need to be involved in everything you do. The polar opposite to the Invisible Boss you will feel that there is no trust in your work as they will want to meddle in everything you do.

Dealing with the micro-manager can be difficult. Often their management style comes from their own insecurity. You can try confronting them, tell them that you can do your job however in many cases this will not succeed and can in fact make things worse.

The Over Promoted Boss

The Over promoted boss categorises someone who has no idea. They have found themselves in a management position through service, family or some corporate mystery. They are people who are not only highly unqualified to be managers they will generally be unable to do even your job.

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You can find yourself persistently frustrated by the situation you are in, however it can seem impossible to get out without handing over your resignation.

The Credit Stealer

The credit stealer is the boss who will never publically acknowledge the work you do. You will put in the extra hours working on a project and you know that, in the ‘big meeting’ it will be your credit stealing boss who will take all of the credit!

Again it is demoralising, you see all of the credit for your labour being stolen and this can often lead to good employees looking for new careers.

3 Essential Ways to Work (Cope) with Bad Managers

Whatever type of bad boss you have there are certain things that you can do to ensure that you get the recognition and protection you require to not only remain sane but to also build your career.

1. Keep evidence

Whether it is incidents with the bully or examples of projects you have completed with the credit stealer you will always be well served to keep notes and supporting evidence for projects you are working on.

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Buy your own notebook and ensure that you are always making notes, it becomes a habit and a very useful one as you have a constant reminder as well as somewhere to explore ideas.

Importantly, if you do have to go to HR or stand-up for yourself you will have clear records! Also, don’t always trust that corporate servers or emails will always be available or not tampered with. Keep your own content.

2. Hold regular meetings

Ensure that you make time for regular meetings with your boss. This is especially useful for the over-promoted or the invisible boss to allow you to ‘manage upwards’. Take charge where you can to set your objectives and use these meetings to set clear objectives and document the status of your work.

3. Stand your ground, but be ready to jump…

Remember that you don’t have to put up with poor management. If you have issues you should face them with your boss, maybe they do not know that they are coming across in a bad way.

However, be ready to recognise if the situation is not going to change. If that is the case, keep your head down and get working on polishing your CV! If it isn’t working, there will be something better out there for you!

Good luck!

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