Organisations don’t do bad news well

Posted on under Today's research

An article in the January 2013 edition of the Journal of Management looks at how people in different organisations deliver bad news. The author concludes that they don’t do it very well, even though they do it a lot—in performance reviews, performance management discussions, in firing people and so on. The article concludes that the failure is in three ‘phases’ of bad news delivery—preparation, delivery and ‘transition’  (follow-up). We would agree and we would add that much of the reason is that managers and HR professionals have not thought about the art of giving bad news in terms of the brain’s reaction to the different ways that the news can be given. Usually bad news is given in a way that simply sets the fight-flight-freeze response in motion. When this happens nothing is learned by the recipient. If the news is given in a situation of relational safety it can be heard and the lessons from it taken in board. (The link below is to the abstract).