Presentation Tip: How To Deliver Bad News

Bad news is an everyday part of the business. Over the course of your career, you will have to share not-so-good news with your teammates or employees. Having the right skills to sensitively communicate declining revenues, pay cuts, pending layoffs and the like, is essential. In this blog post, we’ll explain how to present bad news in the most empathetic and constructive way.

Step 1: Take Responsibility

It’s important to show backbone and not make excuses or shift responsibility onto others. Hold true to your role as a leader and explain honestly and transparently how your superiors or you came to the decision. Pay attention to your body language, as it can both support your arguments and catch you out in a lie.

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If you’re using a PowerPoint presentation to deliver the message, your line of argument needs to be clearly presented. What led to this decision? What factors played a part? What factors are still in play? Be clear and stick to the facts.

Step 2: Listen to Reactions

Once you’ve shared the bad news with your audience, there may be angry and frustrated questions and comments. Don’t try to deflect your employees’ and colleagues’ feelings. Instead, listen to their concerns. By accepting opinions, you show compassion and that you are responsive and accessible to those affected and involved.

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Think about the most likely reactions, questions and objections in advance and prepare for them. Don’t gloss over anything. Stick to the truth and show your respect for the feelings of those affected.

Step 3: Look Ahead

The best way to end your presentation is to focus on the future. Describe the plans you or senior management have, which measures will be taken to end the situation as soon as possible and how to avoid it in the future. End on a positive note and give your audience some reassurance. Most importantly, take your team’s and employees’ suggestions seriously. It’s essential that the measures you describe are actually put into effect, otherwise you risk losing credibility and looking worse than if you hadn’t promised anything at all.

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Your presentation should outline future activities and include an action plan for the coming months.

Delivering bad news offers you the chance to learn from your own mistakes, or those of others, and gain invaluable experience as a manager. It forces you to actively engage in problem management and face up to negative and emotional reactions. It may take you out of your comfort zone, but it will allow you to grow as a leader and a person.