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Nope, this post is NOT about how to land a new gig post lay-off.  I will leave that to the experts.  Instead, I want to share with you a few lessons I learned from the recent slew of lay-off announcements about delivering bad news:

  1. Ignorance is not bliss.  Not for the bad news recipient anyway.  Despite all the emotions that go with getting the bad news, people want to know if they are “it”.  The kind thing to do is to not keep them in the dark unnecessarily.  This is especially true in situations where the bad news affect more than one person.
  2. When delivery bad news, be direct.  By being direct, I mean be straight-forward and don’t dance around the subject.  Bad news is just bad no matter how you look at it.  By sugar coating the situation, you will only come off sounding insincere at best, manipulative at worst.
  3. Give the bad news as soon as possible.  Ask any employees on the potential chopping block how productive their workdays have been since they learned of their companies’ layoff, and you will find that the bad news freeze person in their positions.  Instead of focusing on their work, all they can think of is “Will I be canned?”  That’s super unproductive for both parties.  Worse, it inflicts unnecessary pain on those who are not affected by the bad news.
  4. If you have more than one piece of bad news, tell them all in one go.  There’s nothing worse than being hit with one piece of bad news after another.  Death by a thousand cuts is an infinitely more painful death than a bullet to the head.  When given a choice, the recipients of the bad news almost always prefer to hear them all at once.

The bottom line is this: treat others the way you would like to be treated.  If the way you are delivering bad news would potentially inflict pain on you, then it’s a pretty safe bet it will inflict pain on others just the same.

October 2008
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