Breaking Bad News to Employees

Posted by: Rod Kurtz on February 20, 2009

Sooner or later, every small business owner is going to have bad news to share with employees. Here are a few suggestions to help ease the blow:

• Break the news early in the day. Sharing bad news at 5 p.m. and then leaving for the day may well leave staff members in shock and worried, creating more questions than answers. Talking to them early in the day allows employees the time to absorb the news and to come to you as questions and concerns might arise.

• Share the news with the whole group at one time. This ensures that each employee hears the same words and doesn’t allow the grapevine to take control of the message from you. Be sure to let them know that your door is open should they have questions, concerns, or suggestions.

• Speak honestly and simply. No matter what the bad news is, you’re probably feeling some anxiety and other tough emotions yourself. If so, don’t be afraid to share that with your employees, and don’t hide your message in a bunch of jargon and buzzwords.

• Have a plan. Tell employees where your small business is going from this point. Everyone will want to know what they can do to help the transition—whatever it may be—go smoothly. Make your employees a part of that plan and keep them informed along the way.

Whatever the problem, most employees want to contribute to the solution. Following these tips can help them feel as though they’re part of the team and pulling together to get through a rough period.

Karen Harned
Executive Director, Small Business Legal Center
National Federation of Independent Business
Washington, D.C.

Reader Comments

Mary Cathey

March 3, 2009 1:46 PM

I wish the company I worked for handled the communication about the sale of our company this way. It occurred the end of December, we were told a month later and told NOT to talk about it. Last week, I got called into my boss's office (President and CEO) at noon and was told to lay off my nursing staff at 4:30. I am to put a spin on what is going on. Needless to say, I am waiting for the next show to 'drop'.

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