Sharing “Bad News” with a Workforce
Telling People “Bad News” is confronting and sometimes humiliating for the business owner….
If you’ve ever had to engage a disgruntled workforce, build workforce confidence, strengthen workforce vigour or outline a situation that needs to be overcome…. then, you must understand that it’s not just you who is being affected!
A great leader knows what it is like when you are sitting opposite sides of the table.
While you are addressing people, just consider for a moment what the people receiving your information are going through, or, about to go through.
The most humiliating time that I can remember while owning a business was standing in front of a workforce of over 100 people and telling them “our business was struggling”. It was like ripping out my own heart. I didn’t know if people would punch me, walk out or my reputation would become worthless.
Bad News is one thing, but taking the active step to try and confront such a desperate situation was beyond belief. It was gut wrenching having to call a meeting, stand up in front of people and begin to explain a dire situation…. not only was it so confronting and personal, but when I had to explain the circumstances in front of the same client that owed me outstanding money was something I constantly relive.
About the same time business issues escalated further, to rub salt into the wound, I had to personally delivered bad news to a workforce of over 300 people. I confronted each and every individual, each and every business and each and every supplier and financial institution… confronting, humiliating and demoralising are merely a notation when it comes to the sole destroying nature of dealing with something as hard as this….
But when you’re the business owner, there is nobody else but you who has the responsibility to share such bad news – “roll up your sleeves and get on with it”….. it won’t happen by itself!
Often people feel it is ‘their right’ to pass the ‘hard situations’ on to another person so they can deal with the situation….
This is my opinion – There is nothing worse than feeling like the reason for bad news; but then failing to accept full accountability when things go wrong is cowardly.
People who have positions of responsibility MUST take full accountability for what has happened.
Being responsible means that you lead the way, that you are willing to step up and share ‘bad news’ if and when it happens.
For those people who are in this situation and have no idea how to face it, this is what I learnt:-
Before you stand up and undertake to create a defining moment, think about these points:-
- what is the situations root cause (behaviour problems, systemic problems, engineering problems, training related issues, payroll, counterproductive, customer demands, industry change etc.)?
- who is this going to affect?
- what is the best approach (unified, decentralised, direct, impartial, mediation etc.)?
- what are the ramifications of what may or may not happen?
Things don’t always go to plan:-
I once held a management meeting with a new site management team, all of these personnel were subcontractors from different companies……
There was clearly an issue between competing businesses (subcontractors)…I made the statement “This project requires a unified team, I don’t particularly care what company you work for; but, we all need to become part of the journey on this project so we can all create success together…. I need everyone to be on the ship so we can move forward”
One person stood up and said “I’m getting off the ship, you can sail it by yourself…..”.
It seemed Unfortunate at the time, but it was probably the best thing that could have happened; because the remaining people wanted to stay and make the project a success.
Do your best, be honest and be a leader:-
You won’t get it right every time – but as long as you are honest, people will understand and support what you are trying to achieve.
- When all of the issues have been raised….
- When all the workforce have a clear understanding of the situation….
- When your stakeholders are aware of the difficulties you are being faced with….
- Only then, can you truly begin to hold face for the situation that you are in.
Sharing ‘Bad News’ is where I found myself push beyond anything else that I have ever done before.
I truly feel the situation that I had to face has helped me grow and become more determined to help people that face similar situations in the future.
Written by Geoff Pike, Entrepreneur, Speaker & Business Mentor
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Geoff founded a sole trader plumbing business in a remotely located and vastly underpopulated location in outback Australia. Starting business with only enough money to pay 4 weeks wages, Geoff persisted by growing the business into a multi-disciplined trade services company. Over a period of 12 years, the company Geoff established grew to employ a workforce of over 300 personnel covering an area almost half the size of Europe, receiving international award recognition with an annual revenue of over $30mil. Geoff knows what it takes to overcome adversity.