You already know how to deliver bad news, but what then?
We are always hearing and reading about strategies for delivering bad news to employees, and it is certainly good for a boss to have skill in this area, but the real talent comes after the news has been delivered. How should you interact with employees after they have been the recipient of bad news? While it depends somewhat on the news, there are some standard things you can do to make the process of the aftershock a bit less difficult.
We are talking bad, bad news here. Layoffs, furloughs, downsizing, etc. When this is the news at hand, hopefully it isn’t a total surprise to the recipient. Usually things like this are in talks for awhile and employees know a little about what to expect. Either way, in conjunction with delivering such news, adjust the work load of other employees so that this employee can be offered a mental health day to process the information.
Give some power back to the employee. If at all possible, once the news has been delivered, ask the employee how he/she would like to handle the situation. If it is a layoff, ask “How would you like to handle the rest of the day?” If the news has to do with a failed project or unacceptable work, include the employee in a plan for resubmitting. As for your daily interaction with the employee, just ask. “Do you want to talk more about this, or do you want me to drop it until you let me know you are ready to talk?”
Make it a company mantra that failure is the key to success. Successful businesses were built on their past failures. This is applicable in business and in life in general, so if your bad news has to do with a failed project, demotion, or passed over promotion, remind the employee or staff that learning from the news and applying it to the future is the only acceptable approach. It is true in business and in life, and if you can keep this attitude prevalent in the work place, employees will eventually own it as a coping skill, and bad news will ultimately become the next step to success for your business and for your employees.