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How To Deliver Good and Bad News To Your Manager

Does your heart race thinking about delivering important news to your manager? Sometimes we strike the right balance of tone, timing, preparation, and approach and we get rewarded with a positive outcome. And then we’ve all had a few experiences that we look back on and wince.

How can you make sure you do it right more often than not? Effective communication is one of the toughest skills to master, since our individual personalities vary so much. The key is to build a strong communication bridge with your manager so you can be mutually successful at sharing and managing the effects of important news.

7 Ways to Build a Communication Bridge with Your Manager

1. Set the groundwork: During a time where things are quiet and peaceful, discuss with your manager what types of news should be shared and how.  Ask them what they expect to receive from you, and how you should deliver it.  For instance, which things can wait for a regular check-in meeting and which things need to be shared immediately?

2. Never let your manager be surprised. Remember that your manager’s manager doesn’t want to be surprised either, so think strategically. Review possible scenarios and play them out.  For example, if there’s a major problem with a service, your manager might want to be informed the same day or within three hours or immediately. They might want to be texted, phoned, or called out of a meeting.

3. Give a bit of advance notice. Let your manager know you have something important to discuss and ask for a time to meet. Try to pick the time of day when your manager is at their best and not facing an imminent deadline.

4. Take the time you need. Allow enough time to frame the issue, discuss it, ask questions, and come up with a solution. Don’t let your anxiety stop you from getting the feedback and support you need. It helps to write down your main points and frame the discussion before you meet. Before you leave the meeting, be sure you know what the next steps are.

5. Don’t shy away from delivering bad news. Most of us are eager to share good news but more hesitant to share bad news, hoping we can resolve the problem quickly. If something is not going right, it’s better to share the bad news up front. Every manager would love to hear your news paired with a solution, but don’t be afraid to say you don’t have one and you need their assistance in crafting a solution.

6. Keep your tone calm and respectful. Your approach should be strategic and planned, not emotional and reactionary. Your demeanor will keep your manager calm as well.

7. If you are a manager: The most important thing you can do is to create a climate where your staff is comfortable communicating important news to you. Show them that you don’t “shoot the messenger” but instead welcome all news.

“The relationship with your boss is a partnership. It takes effort to built the relationship and nurture it. You have to communicate well, avoid confrontations and resolve differences in a positive way.” – Jane Boucher

Now, It’s Your Turn

1. Make an appointment with your manager and work together on #1 and #2 above.

2. Read our related post on 3 Ways to Be More Effective in Giving and Receiving Feedback.

3. Look at a few of these articles to get more tips:

Top 7 Tips on Delivering Bad News

Tips for giving your boss bad news

How to deliver bad news to your boss (

eHow’s How to deliver bad news to your boss (