Delivering Bad News Tactfully and Effectively


In the study of communication a word that comes up often is 'Conflict'. It is uncomfortable but it happens, every day in fact. One place that conflict can really cause some serious issues is in the workplace. Below I was giving a scenario and asked how I felt is should be handled. I responded by explaining to conflict management techniques I learned. Personally my suggestions are pretty good, but you can be the judge of that.

“You are a department manager in a mid-sized company that provides technology support services.  You have ten employees who are required to maintain a high level of technical expertise and deliver excellent customer service.  One of your employees, who has been with the company for two years, is performing at a substandard level and you have received numerous complaints from customers and coworkers.  In addition, this employee has displayed confrontational behavior, which has created a hostile environment.  You must now meet with this employee and deliver an ultimatum regarding the need for immediate improvement or dismissal.”
            Any person who has worked in management position knows there will always be a member of their team that does not work well with others. It is essential to avoid procrastination, which tends to be “one of the biggest problems with delivering bad news” (Donnelly, 2011, ¶4). Rather than wait until a situation escalates, it is best to speak to an employee as soon as possible. A hostile work environment can be viewed as past the point of escalation. With the correct techniques, not only can the conflict be resolved, it is probable to save the employee’s position as well.
            In the above-mentioned scenario, it is the manager’s duty to bring the conflict caused by the employee to a resolution. When attempting to resolve any interpersonal conflict, a successful procedure to follow is the “confrontation ritual” (Cahn, 2007, pg 97).  This guideline consists of six steps:
1.            Preparation: Identify your problem/needs/issues.
2.            Tell the person “We need to talk.”
3.            Interpersonal confrontation: Talk to the other person about your problem.
4.            Consider your partner's point of view: Listen, empathize, and respond with               understanding.
5.            Resolve the problem: Make a mutually satisfying agreement.
6.            Follow up on the solution: Set a time limit for reevaluation (Cahn, 2007,                             pg 97).
            It is imperative to first, be very clear of what issues are connected to the individual in question. By indentifying the problem, it becomes an easier task to discuss. The next step is to not allow the problem to grow any worse, approach the employee and be upfront about the desire to speak to them.  When speaking to the person “keep the message brief, direct, and don't sugar-coat it” (Donnelly, 2011, ¶10). It is best to remain honest about the issue at hand. After speaking, it is important to listen to what the employee has to say. At this moment, it is time to resolve the issue. Finally, it is best to let the person know that there will be a follow up and a reevaluation of their performance.
            When using any theory that involves conflict management it must be remembered that people do not always respond as we would like them too. In using, the “confrontation ritual” there may be a point where another theory will be a handy tool to use. An example of a method that is helpful is referred to as the S-TLC system, an “acronym for Stop, Think, Listen, and Communicate” (Cahn, 2007, pg 41). An employee who has already caused a disruption with co-workers and offended customers, may cause management problems as well. If the process of discussing these issues becomes difficult, stopping to think while you listen will help make the decision on how you would like to communicate.
            A team member that has over two years of experience is difficult to replace. Time and money will have to be spent, training a new employee to fill that position. It is best to work on resolving a conflict with an experience team member then termination. By using the correct conflict resolution techniques, it is possible to save the individual from losing their job. The “confrontation ritual” and the S-TLC system are the necessary methods to make that possible.
Cahn, D.D., & Abigail, R.A. (2007). Managing conflict through communication. Boston: Pearson Education, Inc.
Donnelly, T. (2011, January 14). How to Deliver Bad News to Employees. Retrieved March 27, 2011 from

3 Responses to “Delivering Bad News Tactfully and Effectively”

  1. Robert says:

    Very thorough- good job! I forgot about the re-evaluation, that's great follow-up.

  2. I really like your blog. You have done an excellent job. This blog was very impressive to me. You have advertisements, pictures, well written articles, links, etc. The topics were well written and followed the theme of communications. My one suggestion is a formatting suggestion. I think that it would be nice if all of the articles were consistent with either single or double spacing and that they have similar fonts. This blog shows that you have spent some time thinking about this blog and the topics that you have added. This would be a valuable resource to use when looking at communications items. The pictures are a nice addition.

  3. aisha27 says:

    You are a great writer and do a good job of using and citing sources. This particular blog was thorough in that it explained a problem and took you through a step by step process to handle the problem. The follow up is also important as most people forget to do this important step in the process. Keep up the good writing!

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