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Man Up Your Delivering Of Bad News

15 July 2008 5 Comments

Delivering bad newsI opened my mail this morning and discovered my auto insurance company is dropping me as a customer because of a fender bender from 2 and 1/2 years ago.  I simply couldn’t believe my eyes.  In this world of uncertain times, I understand things don’t always make sense, but has my insurance company completely lost its mind???  Do they really want to control this message in a form letter?

Not that it matters, but I have an impeccable driving record and this was a minor incident that caused minor payments to the other guy.  I’ve made no claims to them for over 10 years, and they decide to whack me for something that arguably wasn’t even my fault?

I’ll get this sorted out, but it did get me thinking about how they decided to tell me, a solid customer, of their decision to lose my number. The form letter came from some unknown fella in Kansas City, MO.  I live in Las Vegas and my agent does too.

I say, exhibit the right manliness by delivering bad news like a man should.  My agent, if he knows he is about to lose a customer, should have controlled this message and fessed up that he works for a company that is insane. He should have shown some clock weights and called me personally to handle this situation.  Here is what he should have done…

Guidelines to delivering bad news in a manly way

Give it in person.  If you must use the phone, you better have a damn good reason.  If the information is time sensitive, and you can’t get to them fast enough, that is a good reason.  If you are too chicken to do it face to face, you are wussing out.

Never use email.  I can’t think of a situation where this is acceptable.  My wife and I received bad news about a failed adoption once through an email.  Are you kidding me?  You do this in person or over the phone.  My wife cried for nearly the entire day and I was looking for blood.  Adoptions fail, but have the decency when it comes to things of this magnitude.

Put it in writing.  Not everything has to go in writing, but if you are looking to sever a relationship and want it to be abundantly clear, you need to have it writing.  The crazy insurance company needed to send me a letter for sure, but it needed to come from my agent first.

Be considerate of their feelings.  The person is going to have some mixed feelings about the news.  This is why they call it “bad” news.  Remember, they have aspirations, dreams, goals, families to take care, etc.  They don’t need arrogance on your part.  Be a gentleman and be considerate.  That is manliness.

Be firm and unwavering.  Don’t mince words, though.  Be firm, direct and don’t change your mind.  Delivering bad news is never fun, but being a man about things is not always easy.  If a decision has been made, then stick with it.  Wrap you arms around the person, give them a big hug, but tell them this is way it has to be.

Don’t send mixed messages.  Some call this “sandwiching.”  This is the concept of crouching the bad news in the middle of that silver lining we always like to come back to.  Yes, there is always a good way of looking at things, but don’t hide behind this.  Tell them like it is and they will respect you for it in the long run.

Keep it private.  If you share with others the bad news (even with the person’s permission), you are doing the wrong thing.  It is not your information to share.  If you have to tell other people a change needed to made, tell them.  Leave out the gory details and remind everybody of the sensitive manner it is when it comes to delivering bad news.  Tell them to put themselves in the position of the person getting the bad news.

Separate the person from the problem.  Try to never make it personal.  Even if the bad news is because of a personal action, deliver the news in a way that is not an indictment on them.  For instance, if a person had to be fired because of a racial slur, tell that person they screwed up.  Tell them the racial slur doesn’t make them a racist (that would personal), but their actions in that incident could not be tolerated and a change had to be made.  Leave your own personal beliefs about the other person COMPLETELY out of it.

Tell the freaking truth.  Unless the truth is so unbearably wrong to share, it is always advisable to be honest and have integrity.  The truth hurts at times, but it will also set us free.   Once the truth is out there, the healing and fixing can begin.

Allow feedback.  Give the opportunity to the other person to sound off – in private!  If they want to take their feedback public, remind them of the professionalism and courtesy you are showing.  If they have a chance to give their feedback, immediately or after some reflection, it always helps that person move on from the bad news.

Delivering bad news to somebody in a form letter with filled in blanks is NEVER cool.  Where is the Fast Thinkingmanliness in that?  I fault their system, but my agent has to wear some of the egg as well.  If my agent were to have called me and talked to me about the issue (or at least have warned me this could happen), I would have been grateful and understanding.  Now, I just feel like they were like everyone else in our society – skirting the issue and not taking responsibility.  They wanted an easy way out.

Want more information on how to deliver bad news, Ros Jay wrote this fantastic book on how to deliver bad news and managing tough situations.

Let me know your thoughts.  Manly or not?


  • Mike Bates said:

    I was recently hunting for a new job, and you can’t believe how some employers simply won’t tell you if you haven’t gotten the job. Of course, you eventually get the idea. But the indignity and humiliation of waiting for a call that does not come is difficult to put up with, and I hope these employers know how cowardly they are. Man up and deliver the bad news, show some respect for the man you’re dealing with. Nice post.

  • Arsh said:

    I agree with Mike Bates. I actually request the interviewer to give me a call weather I get the job or not. If they didn’t call you despite your request, then that place is probably not worth working at.

  • Ritu Raj said:

    I had never seen this type of problem however I will follow your tips. Thanks

    Ritu Rajs last blog post..LIC Lower its Equity Exposure

  • masradar said:

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  • Jimmy Jones said:

    Great post, what you said is really helpful to me. I can’t agree with you anymore. I have been talking with my friend about, he though it is really interesting as well. Keep up with your good work, I would come back to you

    Jimmy Jones

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