Bad News Messages

Written by Jeremy Horelick
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Bad news messages are notoriously difficult to convey. Despite the preponderance of words in the English language that describe failure, criticism, and malevolence, it seems our faculties are put to the test whenever an occasion calls for blunt bad news. Try as we may to tiptoe around the issues, we often manage to feel we're being cold, callous, or insensitive when bearing bad tidings.

Compounding this problem of writing or relaying bad news messages is our increasingly litigious society. Say the wrong thing or fail to follow proper protocol--say, for example, when firing an employee--and you not only stand to be pegged a jerk, you stand to be sued as well. This makes the art of crafting bad news messages even more delicate and calls for added care when choosing the right words.

Writing Your Bad News Messages

Perhaps you have news of layoffs or cutbacks in your office. In your personal life, you may have friends or loved ones with illnesses, maybe even terminal ones. These instances call for care, yes, but not so much trepidation as to obscure the message. In the case of a death, a "Please accept my deepest condolences on your loss" is, arguably, generic, but it gets the message across without becoming too specific.

As for layoffs or terminations, you want to make sure your message is received. You are not offering your fired employee a Bahamas cruise, so it serves neither of you to sugarcoat your message. At the same time, you don't want to make any sort of personal attack, for that is the type of assertion that can earn you a suit. For more information on the nuances of breaking bad news messages in the corporate world, check out any number of business writing books, CDs, or DVDs on the topic. There are also several outstanding web sites that offer free tips and strategies.


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