Being a bearer of bad news in even the best of times is rough. But a bad economy means there are more bad conversations to be braved — like the conference about layoffs, or the pay cut meeting, or the raises and promotions denied.
“Someone’s got to be telling all these people that they aren’t working anymore,” says “Surviving Dreaded Conversations” author Donna Flagg, a veteran of tricky office talks who “cut her teeth” intervening on the crack cocaine habit of her first boss.
Her advice is simple: Get to the point. “A lot of people, because it’s so difficult, they beat around the bush,” Flagg says. “It’s like a Band-Aid. Just rip it off.”
Trying to downplay a serious issue — or offer false hope — can prolong the listener’s agony, Flagg notes. Worse than that, it’s transparent, sometimes even degrading. If you’re feeling jittery about delivering bad news, then a pre-game mirror rehearsal is clutch.
“You should practice in advance,” Flagg says. “If you’re practicing then you’re using that [nervous] energy towards something productive.”