Bad News in a Good Way

“No one loves the messenger who brings bad news.” Sophocles, Antigone

I hate bad news. I mean, who does?

Bad news is something that could ruin you day, or your week, or your month, or your life in some cases. Unfortunately, for most of us, bad news cannot be forever avoided. Because if all you got was good news in life, it wouldn’t be good, it would just be news. You need some bad to balance out and appreciate the good.

As such, bad news should always be delivered with good news. Obvious, right? 

No_News_is_Bad_NewsA funny example of this is when I was sitting with a good friend who was going over the financial reports of a company for his Policy class. While it was unfortunate that his company had A LOT of debt, their competitors had EVEN MORE debt!

“My debt weakness isn’t a weakness!” he told me, half laughing half crying.

The bad news of the company’s financial situation was softened by the aspect that it could possibly be a strength when compared to other companies.

While this example is extreme – and not everyone will see debt as a strength – the point still remains: bad news should always come with a little good news. That way it can be digested and contemplated without extreme shock, sadness, or anger.

Had to skip out on lunch with friends? That’s okay because you can go with a movie with them this weekend. Lost some money? That’s fine because you get paid tomorrow.

While this philosophy can be utilized in your personal life, it can also be applied in the professional world. No matter what you do you will eventually have to deliver some bad news to a co-worker or a boss. Soften the blow, bring some good news along.

Couldn’t make a deadline? That’s okay because you also finished another project ahead of schedule. Had to cancel a meeting? That’s fine because you successfully gained a new client from a competitor.

Make it so you are not only remembered as the bringer of bad news.

“It is much, much worse to receive bad news through the written word than by somebody simply telling you, and I’m sure you understand why. When somebody simply tells you bad news, you hear it once, and that’s the end of it. But when bad news is written down, whether in a letter or a newspaper or on your arm in felt tip pen, each time you read it, you feel as if you are receiving the bad news again and again.” Lemony Snicket, Horseradish

If you’re not convinced, let me continue. Another tip about delivering bad news in a professional environment is that it is best to give it in person. Do not send an email or a proxy. Once the bad news is said, it is done. It does not remain in print or online for someone to view again and again.

Also, giving bad news in person allows you to explain the situation or answer any questions the receiver might have about the news. In this way, bad news is easier to manage.

Be in control of your news and you will appear more professional.

TL;DR → Always deliver bad news with some good news.

Posted in: Advising & Support