Avionics News February 2013 - 54
G R E G
L A S L O
The Toughest Job
How to Break Bad News to Employees and Customers
’ve got some good news and
some bad news.
The bad news is you’ll eventually have to break bad news. The
good news is there’s a way to do it
that you should probably learn.
And just so you know, this isn’t
As often as we must relay this
kind of information – in business
and in life – one might think we
would be better at this task. Yet,
Personally, I have seen some
colossally ham-handed efforts. I
had a colleague fired by email –
not a, “we regret to inform you”
kind of email, but through an
at-large email to all employees
announcing the departure. And
another person reported for work
and found his personal items in
boxes and the replacement unpacking. A third was informed publically of her demotion in a companywide meeting.
Oh, and then there was the
instance when a co-worker died.
As you can expect, events like
these reverberate through compa54
nies, and each requires handling
with kid gloves. Nothing kills
employee morale like callous
leadership. And nothing steams
a customer like a company that’s
flubbed an important communica-
S = Setting Up
P = Perception
I = Invitation
K = Knowledge
E = Emotions
S = Strategy
tion. But things happen: a shop
faces financial problems, a customer’s install goes sideways and
someone has to lose the pitch for
new business. Occasionally, good
people suffer bad things.
As an oncologist, Dr. Robert
Buckman often had to break the
worst kind of news, and he realized
that even doctors at the top of their
fields struggled with this part of
their job – which, apparently, they
were supposed to know intuitively.
His solution, the SPIKES model,
gives a step-by-step structure to
the conversation. It’s an approach
the corporate world, including the
likes of PricewaterhouseCoopers,
IBM and Pepsi, has found useful
for similar reasons.
Something this important should
have a game plan that gives you
confidence to lead the conversation respectfully and productively.
“Do it poorly, and people will
never forgive you,” Buckman
told Entrepreneur magazine in
June 2011, a few months before
his death. “Do it well, and they’ll
never forget you.”
So here’s how it works.
S = Setting Up
You must prepare, because it’s
a high-stakes conversation. Gird
yourself emotionally for this genuinely miserable task. Draft what