What are the Principles of Conveying Bad News?

What are the Principles of Conveying Bad News? | Leadership | Emeritus

When you realize you need to deliver bad news to your team, colleagues, or anyone working under you or alongside you, you start raking your brain to find the exact words It’s not easy to share bad news and expect the person to behave normally or the situation to remain tension-free. It never happens and perhaps will never be. Human psychology is complex but behaves similarly for everyone when perceiving and analyzing bad news.
Let’s say you want to explain to your team that someone else will lead them because you have a better opportunity than joining any other project. In this case, the possible reactions from your team will be disappointment, stress, and dissatisfaction. Therefore, to convey any bad news without making a dramatic impact, there are certain principles you should follow. This way, you won’t have to worry about being in the spotlight and obliged to answer questions about things not in your hand.
We have shared these principles in the following article for your better understanding.


The first and foremost thing you need to ensure is clarity. Until and unless you bring clarity in your voice, you won’t be able to convey the bad news correctly. Most often, the lack of clarity can entirely change the meaning of the news, forcing the news receiver to think or assume scenarios that are too far-fetched to consider in real life. This is why you should ensure the information you convey while stating the bad news is clear and spot-on.
Now, the difficulty arises when you have to judge whether the words spoken carry the expected amount of clarity or not. For this, you can follow these points:
1.  It would help if you did not stick to cliches and jargon while conveying the bad news verbally or in a written format.
2.  It is better to stick to the point and convey the news so that people understand your intentions and motives.
3.  You should also end your speech so that it creates room for questions from the receivers. These questions must be answered in a logical way that has some sense and meaning.
4.  Take your time to explain the concepts behind the key decision and its rationale. This will help you greatly reduce the adverse reaction from the group of listeners.


Sometimes, clarity in your words might become layman or stilted. To avoid creating such situations unknowingly, you need to work on dignity. In this case, as the giver of the bad news, you need to show empathy for the people on the receiving end.
Sympathizing them can often come out as silently mocking them, and that won’t be a sweet situation to handle. Also, it would help if you respected the people affected most by the bad news. Keep yourself in their shoes to understand how one can feel if the tonality of the other person is not respectful or empathic.
Try to incorporate warmth, compassion, consolation, and caring in your voice while conveying the news. You don’t have to beat around the bush and stretch the point too far before telling the actual news. This is not a movie thriller where only snippets are shown to raise curiosity in people. It’s reality, and the bad news can affect people quite badly.
Therefore, you need to think about the sensitive mind of some people and how badly they can get affected. One thing you shouldn’t forget to add in your speech is how the organization is trying to ease and help others affected by the bad news.


The last principle to keep in mind while sharing some bad news with your employees is precision. It means that the message or information should be shared equally with the same expression, tonality, and other aspects across all organizational levels. One such example involves the tower leaders in the project.
All of them should have access to the information and the tools. Besides, they should know who to convey the news to, what the bad news is, how to convey it, and when to declare it. If any change is at the higher level of organizational leadership management and the impacted areas will be multiple at different levels, it would be better to work on the timeline. This way, you will know when to convey the bad news properly to ease resistance and increase acceptance and understandability.
Suppose the plan is to inform a handful of employees about the bad news earlier than the entire organization. In that case, you should plan the staggered schedule properly without any lack of clarity.


It is not easy to convey the bad news to others, especially if we are discussing being laid off, transfer of projects, no appraisals, etc. But following these three principles will help you become the best and most empathic news bearer.

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