Have to Give Bad News to Your Team? 9 Tips for Doing It Right

In business, unfortunately, not every day brings about success. At some point in their careers, business leaders will be tasked with sharing bad news with their team members, and how they do so will have a major impact on their relationship with their staff and the trust they may have built over time.

Whether it’s as impactful as layoffs or as simple as a down year, you’ll want to approach your communication strategy thoughtfully. To help, nine business leaders from Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) weigh in on the following question:

“No business owner ever wants to give bad news to their staff, but when the situation calls for it, what’s your best advice for how to communicate negative or potentially troublesome news or information to your entire team? What impact does this have on their reaction to it?”

how to share bad news with your team

Here’s what YEC leaders had to say.

1. Empower Your Team to Be Part of the Solution

“As a marketing agency, our bad news is usually related to revenue or client attrition. Before we deliver the news, we always remind the team how we’ve been through these dips before and have always come out stronger. Be realistic, but also bring the team in to be a part of the solution. Empower your team so they can be a part of fixing the problem and not just hearing bad news.” ~ Dan Golden, BFO (Be Found Online)

2. Be as Direct as You Can

“I’d say it’s best not to sugarcoat things and to be as direct as you can. Sometimes, going in circles or being indirect, especially when it comes to conveying bad news, does more harm than good. So, just say things as they are. This will show that you’re honest and not trying to hide anything from your staff, and you may generally get a positive reaction from them.” ~ Stephanie Wells, Formidable Forms

3. Communicate Immediately and in Person

“Any bad news should be communicated as soon as it is certain and should be done in person rather than through an email, a text or a platform message. Bad news is personal for employees, so it should be personal to leaders too. You don’t want employees to hear about it on the news, on social media or anywhere else. You want them to hear it from you.” ~ Baruch Labunski, Rank Secure

4. Explain That You Want to Resolve the Problem

“If you’re in a position where you must give your team bad news, I advise starting your announcement by clarifying that you want to do everything you can to ease the burden of this situation. It doesn’t matter if you need to announce layoffs or a change to upper management; explaining that you want to resolve the problem adds comfort that may otherwise be missing from your message.” ~ John Turner, SeedProd LLC

5. Plan for Inevitable Questions

“If you’re worried about giving your team bad news, I advise preparing what you will say in advance and anticipating the questions people are likely to ask. You don’t want to make an announcement and then get flustered as soon as questions start rolling in. Planning for inevitable questions around the news will make it easier to keep things calm, even during stressful times.” ~ Chris Christoff, MonsterInsights

6. Pair the News With Some Compensation

“It’s best to pair the bad news with some sort of compensation on your behalf. For example, if the current quarter has brought you slim profit and has led you to cut down on bonuses or exclude them from the paycheck entirely, pair the bad news with an announcement that you’ll be increasing the bonus amount by a certain percentage if the team meets the set goals.” ~ Chris Klosowski, Easy Digital Downloads

7. Explain the Cause and Your Plan Moving Forward

“If you need to give your team bad news, take time to think through how you’ll say it first. Your team will want answers, so always pair the news with an explanation of what caused the issue and how you plan to deal with it and avoid it happening again in the future. If the news affects a subset of your team, tell them first before communicating to the rest of your company so they’re not blindsided.” ~ Diana Goodwin, MarketBox

8. Make It a Two-Way Conversation

“It’s essential to be transparent and empathetic. Instead of simply delivering the news, engage in a two-way conversation. Allow the team to express their concerns, ask questions and provide input. This approach fosters a sense of inclusion, making employees feel valued and understood even in challenging situations. Encouraging a collective effort will lead to a more resilient and united team.” ~ Andrew Saladino, Kitchen Cabinet Kings

9. Choose the Right Time and Place

“Sharing bad news with your team can be challenging, but it’s important that you choose the right time and place to do it. Timing and setting matter when it comes to absorbing bad news. So, schedule a meeting with the team. Allow them enough time to absorb the news and then be open to addressing any questions they have. Clearing their doubts will help them cope better with the situation.” ~ Josh Kohlbach, Wholesale Suite

Image: Envato Elements

The Young Entrepreneur Council The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.