Why Bad Messages Get Worse With Time

Leadership isn’t all a bed of roses. One of the unofficial hats you wear is that of a communicator. But there are times when the message you have isn’t a positive one. What do you do when the news you’re sitting on has the potential to rock someone’s world? In this post, I’m going to teach you how to rip off the band-aid so that healing can begin.

via Markus Spiske @ Flickr Creative Commons

via Markus Spiske @ Flickr Creative Commons

Mrs. Example has been struggling a lot lately. Shoot, if you’re honest, it’s been for almost a year. Her attitude is toxic to the staff. She’s caused more problems than she’s solved and her gruff exterior has been the catalyst behind numerous phone calls from parents.

It seems like an easy call for all of the “armchair quarterbacks” in the school. Mrs. Example needs to go. The hard part for you is that you know Mrs. Example in ways that they don’t…

For instance, you know she and her husband have hit a rough patch…That can throw anyone’s world off balance.

Based on word that has gotten back to you, you know she liked her old boss better than you. It’s nothing personal, just preference. Maybe she’s just struggling to adjust?

She’s also struggling financially. It’s no secret. She let you know this the last time you tried to address her demeanor.

You’ve had several one-on-one conversations with Mrs. Example but things just don’t seem to be getting better. She rarely admits when she’s done wrong, so she can’t possibly fix anything.

The time has come. Mrs. Example needs to move on down the road. But she’s not going to go willingly.

Bad news delayed is bad news compounded.

Have you been there? Have you had to deal with your own Mrs. Example? This is one of the most difficult parts of leadership…delivering bad news when the situation has gotten to the point of no return.

I have found that bad news is taken best when it is all at once and straight to the point.

Why Bad News Shouldn’t Wait

 1.  It shows the other person respect. By being forthcoming, you’re giving them time to absorb the emotional hit, and begin making arrangements.

Don’t hide the facts. Be straight-forward without becoming personal. Address the unacceptable actions, not the personality behind them.

A great strategy I have learned is to keep detailed notes and if you can, have them sign off on what you have told them.

2.  Waiting leaves room for speculation. People who don’t know will often begin trying connect the dots themselves, often leading to a fantasy much worse than reality.

You must also remember that others are affected. Anytime bad news must be delivered, several groups are involved.

  • Those who are victims of the news
  • Survivors who still remain
  • External audiences who are interested and watching

How you handle the victim speaks volumes to the other groups.

3.  Problems don’t always work themselves out. Sometimes, leadership and initiative are required.

If you have some bad news to deliver, then odds are that you’re not going to feel very good about it. But in THIS moment, it’s not about you. Leadership often requires that we take care of the things that others either can’t or won’t resolve themselves. This is why YOU are in the captain’s chair.

QUESTION: What decisions have you been putting off because you’ve been too afraid? 

The reality is that things could get much worse if you don’t muster up the courage to lead. Do it for yourself. Do it for your family. Do it for your team. But most importantly, do it soon.

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