Rules of engagement.
By Diane Katz, Ph.D.
No one likes to be the bearer of bad news--after all, we know what often happens to the messenger. But especially in these difficult economic times, there will continue to be layoffs, demotions, pay cuts or freezes, plus not-so-great performance reviews. So how do you as a manager handle delivering the news? Here are some tips to keep in mind:
1. ALWAYS have compassion, no matter who it is and no matter what the message is.
2. Don’t forget to breathe--that will keep your composure.
3. Have the two of you on equal footing, either both sitting or both standing--don’t use power differentials.
4. Deliver in private.
5. Schedule with as little time in between the making of the appointment and the discussion.
6. Don’t prolong a difficult discussion--allow each of you a graceful exit.
7. Speak for yourself--don’t quote others.
8. Be specific and to the point.
9. Don’t blame: Speak of responsibility and what happened as a result of the person’s actions.
10. Acknowledge your actions--be responsible for your errors and successes.
11. Never tell someone, “You made me feel...” Instead, say something like: “When you said that, I was very frustrated.”
12. If there is no room for negotiation, make sure you are clear about that. If there is room for negotiation, state that clearly, as well.
13. If you and someone else need to deliver that difficult message, that is fine, but don’t have more than two. That is just too intimidating.
14. Have that difficult conversation either in neutral territory or on the other person’s turf if you want to have that other person have a modicum of comfort.
15. Be clear and don’t apologize for your actions or your words. You might be sorry this has to happen, but that is different from apologizing.
16. If you are not sure you were heard or if the conversation is highly charged, ensure that the other person understood what you said. You can say something like, “I just want to make sure we are on the same page. Can you please tell me what you heard me say?”
17. If you need to have notes taken, make preparations in advance. Make sure you and the other person both sign, if necessary (legal considerations, etc.)
18. Afterward, be gentle on yourself--take a walk, breathe, but don’t just jump back into action.
Diane Katz has had a successful consulting company (www.TheWorkingCircle.com) since 1995, providing organizational development, training, teambuilding, and conflict resolution to clients across the U.S. Her new book, “Win at Work! The Everybody Wins Approach to Conflict Resolution,” helps professionals, trainers, and managers resolve conflicts in eight career crossroads.