How IT Managers Can Do A Good Job Of Delivering Bad News

One of the jobs of an IT Manager is to be able to deliver bad news
One of the jobs of an IT Manager is to be able to deliver bad news

Image Credit:
Still The Oldie

Let’s face it, as IT Managers we’d all like to be liked. We enjoy the parts of our job that are fun. It makes us happy when another large IT project is successfully rolled out. However, life is life and part of our job is that when there is bad news to be delivered, we’re the ones who have the job to use our IT manager skills to share the news with the people who work for us. Most of us have never had any IT manager training in how to do this correctly. Nothing that I can tell you will ever make this an easy thing to do. However, it turns out that there are ways that you can deliver information like this in ways that turn out to be less stressful for you and, perhaps, just a little bit more comforting for the people that you have to deliver it to.

How Not To Deliver Bad News

When it comes to delivering bad news, none of us really want to do this. When the time comes for us to sit down with the people who work for us and deliver some bad news to them, all too often we’ll attempt to find ways to avoid doing this. One of the more common ways is to simply put it off. Perhaps we’re hoping the bad news will go away and we’ll never have to share it. That rarely, if ever, happens and so delaying the inevitable is never a good idea.

There are some managers who realize that if they allow themselves to feel what their workers are feeling they are going to end up feeling bad. In order to prevent themselves from feeling this way, what they do is to distance themselves from the people that they are talking with. The reason that they are doing this is to attempt to shield themselves from the fallout of the bad news that they are delivering.

If this is how you deliver bad news, don’t feel too bad about it. Roughly half of IT Managers deliver bad news this way. What we are trying to do when we do this is to not think about both the personal and the potential family consequences of the news that we are delivering. This approach may seem like the easiest path to take at the time; however, studies have shown that it yields the poorest results.

How To Deliver Bad News

This bad news stuff is hard to deliver and so now it turns out that there are incorrect ways to deliver it. Great. What’s an IT Manager to do? It turns out that there is a correct way to deliver bad news. What this calls for is an IT Manager to connect with the people that they are delivering the news to. This means that you need to get involved in the conversation and you need to let your own emotions enter into the conversation.

What is going to happen when you do this is that you are going to be able to handle the conversation more personally. You will also be able to offer more practical guidance to the people that you are talking with about how to deal with the news that you are sharing with them. Showing empathy to people as we share bad news with them is not something that comes easily to most of us. The good news here is that empathy is something that can be learned. If we can learn how to be empathetic then our own levels of distress when delivering bad news can go down and we’ll be able to do a better job of handling things like conflicts.

When you are having a discussion that involves bad news with someone, you are going to want to focus on fairness. Since you are the person who is in charge, you are going to want to show fairness to the people that you are talking with by making your decisions neutrally, explaining your actions, and providing the people that you are talking with a chance to be heard. Note that all of these efforts on your part can help your company out. When you show compassion when delivering bad news the people that you are talking with are less likely to feel aggravated and the “survivors” are commitment to the company as everyone moves forward.

What All Of This Means For You

In a perfect world there would be no bad news. As IT Managers, we could go into work every day just expecting to have an opportunity to share more good news with everyone who works for us. However, we have to live in the real world and so that means that there both is bad news and we are the ones who are called on to deliver it to the people who work for us. How we deliver it is key to our ability to do this successfully.

What we don’t want to do is to deliver bad news incorrectly. One way to do this task incorrectly would be to distance ourselves from the people that we are talking with. We might do this to shield ourselves from the effects of our words, but that would be a mistake. A better approach would be to show empathy for the people that we are talking with and let your emotions enter into the conversation. Not all of us know how to show empathy and so the good news is that this can be learned. We need to remember to show fairness during these discussion and allow the person that we are talking with to express their thoughts and feelings.

Bad news is something that most of us would rather run and hide from. However, since it is a part of real life, we need to make sure that we know how to deal with it. Connecting with the people that we are delivering the bad news to is the key to being able to do this in a compassionate way. You’ll never like delivering bad news, but with a little bit of practice you can get good at it and get back to your IT team building.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: Do you think bad news is best delivered to a group or is it better one-on-one?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

As IT managers, we work hard. We have a lot of different things on our plate at any given point in time to apply our IT manager skills to: projects, new technology evaluations, and simply trying to keep our team together and moving forward. That’s why when we are actually able to accomplish something it really is a big deal. We know it’s a big deal and we’d like to let the rest of the world know that it’s a big deal. One way to go about doing this is for us to do some bragging. However, we’ve never had any IT manager training on this so just exactly how can we do it correctly?