Early in my career I worked for a well-known manufacturing company. One day, seemingly out of the blue, our CEO sent a company-wide email announcing that our entire IT department was being outsourced. In his message, he explained that impacted employees would be rebadged to the new IT provider—or terminated.
Because the CEO was smart and accomplished, I believed he emailed this emotionally charged message to thousands of employees in hopes of saving some severance money by prompting IT employees to resign—but that wasn’t the case at all.
Like many leaders, he had fallen prey to the lure of email as a primary mode of communication. After all, it’s easy to hide behind the cyber wall when bad news has to be delivered because you don’t have to watch someone suffer through a potentially painful experience.
The truth is that any kind of bad news requires in-person delivery whenever possible. Here’s why:
- It demonstrates courage—a desirable trait in any leader.
- You have more control of the message.
- A conversation affords the impacted party the most dignity.
- Everyone has an opportunity to speak their piece.
- Tone of voice and nonverbals can complement your words and reinforce the intended message.
Before you act …
If you can’t personally deliver bad news because of the size of your audience, consider a video message, telephone conversation or broadcast voice mail. Email should be your last resort.