Delivering bad news is always a difficult task. Managers who give bad news to their employees experience physical and emotional problems similar to those on the receiving end. Issues like headaches, ulcers, and increased blood pressure can last for years for those delivering the bad news according to a study in Human Resource Management.

When delivering the news of a missed promotion, giving negative feedback, or having to let someone go, it is important to have a plan. A structured approach helps avoid any potential complications or miscommunications that can lead to an even worse situation.

If you find yourself in the role of a manager and you need to deliver bad news in the workplace, just remember to outline the 5 W’s: Who, What, Where, When, and Why. These will help you keep the situation under control.

A lot can be learned from the ways doctors break bad news to their patients. One method used by medical professionals is called the S.P.I.K.E.S. approach. It consists of the following:

  • Setting Up
  • Perception
  • Invitation
  • Knowledge
  • Emotions
  • Strategy

First, you set the stage for the patient, make sure they understand the situation before breaking the news. Then, you ask if they wish to receive the results, avoid using terminology that might be beyond the patient’s medical knowledge, allow for emotional venting, and discuss strategy and next steps.

While delivering news of a missed promotion is not on the same level as giving bad medical news, a lot can be learned from the structured interactions that doctors utilize. No one likes getting bad news. But by following a plan or structure in your interaction, it can help you deliver bad news the best way possible and avoid any potential nasty episodes that could arise.

Sources – New Book Explores Best Times For Almost Everything – Do You Want the Good News or the Bad News First? – Don’t Read My Lips! – An Integrative Framework for Explaining Reactions to Decisions: Interactive Effects of Outcomes and Procedures – Preserving Employee Dignity During the Termination Interview: An Empirical Examination