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6 Ways to Break Bad News to Your Team

We asked six leaders: How did you handle sharing the hardest news of your career?
6 Ways to Break Bad News to Your Team
Image credit: Tommy Parker
Magazine Contributor
4 min read

This story appears in the July 2018 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Being the bearer of bad news is never fun. But there comes a time in everyone's lives, when they've got to step up to the plate. This is especially true in business. When you're in a leadership position at a company, knowing how to deliver bad news is a crucial skill. To help you out, we asked six leaders for their advice on delivering bad news to teams.

Here's what they had to say:

Related: A Manager's Guide to Delivering Bad News (Infographic)

1. With a promise.

“After the economic meltdown of 2008, we couldn’t afford to keep everyone on staff. Picking who stays and who goes is one of the most difficult decisions you have to make as CEO. I delivered the news with honesty and empathy at an all-hands meeting. We gave some severance, referral to an employment service and a personal reference. We also gave the option to rejoin our team once things were back on track, and some did! It was a homecoming of sorts, a healing moment.” -- Ori Eisen, founder and CEO, Trusona 

2. With support.

“In 2016, our office manager passed away. She was only 26. We called a mandatory meeting, let everyone know, and brought in grief counselors. The hardest part was controlling my own emotions in front of the company. This was a crucial moment, and the team needed a leader. We organized a memorial service to celebrate her life. It took time for the business to return to a normal cadence, but her impact remains at the company today.” -- Rahul Gandhi, co-founder and CEO, MakeSpace

Related: The Scientifically Proven Ways to Deliver Bad News

3. With transparency.

“In New York, construction delays are as common as yellow taxis. But when you’re working to open a new restaurant location and have promoted staff to run it, construction delays don’t impact just revenue but your team’s livelihood as well. Delaying promotions for people who have worked hard to earn them is tough news to deliver. But we invited the team to the construction site to see the space and ask questions, and it helped everyone get on the same page.” -- Otto Cedeno, founder, Otto’s Tacos

4. With community.

“The worst news my husband and I had to share with our employees, and kids, was that we’d decided to move our business from New York to Los Angeles. We gave employees the option to stay with us and relocate. Some came west, and others did not. We couldn’t guarantee that those who moved with us would love L.A., but we promised to figure it out together.” -- Cortney Novogratz, co-founder, The Novogratz

5. With a plan.

“One of my first experiences as an entrepreneur was running a restaurant, which I closed as a result of 2008’s downturn. I knew this was going to be life-changing for my team. We did everything we could to ease the disruption, and I leveraged my network to place laid-off employees in new positions -- nearly 90 percent had jobs in just a few weeks. As a business owner, failure is hard, but it’s an opportunity to prove yourself as a leader.” -- Michael Wystrach, co-founder and CEO, Freshly 

Related: 3 Tips for Softening the Blow When You Have to Deliver Bad News

6. With reason.

“After I joined Interactions as CEO, my team and I identified significant roadblocks in our product development. We had been on an aggressive growth track, but it was clear we needed to right the ship. I told my board and team that we were shutting down sales to double down on R&D. Hitting pause was an incredibly hard decision, but it was necessary to ensure we were providing the best product and experience for our customers.” -- Mike Iacobucci, CEO, Interactions

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