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How to break bad news to your team (without killing their motivation)



When bad news comes around, it can often be devastating to a team.

Whether it’s a project failure, a tightening of a deadline, or the removal of resources, it can kill their motivation to keep trying harder.

You don’t want this to happen, so what do you do? Here’s how to break that bad news without destroying your team’s motivation.



Support them, always

One of the first things to do, even before you have bad news to deliver, is to ensure that you have a great work environment for your employees. You need a strong support system in place which makes them want to come back to work every day. So long as they have that support, they should be able to take bad news just fine. Even if the bad news comes as a real blow, they will still have that great environment to return to, which can form motivation in itself. Make your employees love their job, and they will want to perform it to the best of their abilities.


Take responsibility

Sometimes, bad news comes through no fault of the employees themselves. It could be that decisions have been made higher up which have nothing to do with their actual performance or abilities. Make sure that you stress this when you deliver the news. It’s also important for you to take responsibility as a leader. This is a great way to help your employees to trust you, as well as to show them that their hard work has not been taken for granted. If they trust you, they may well follow your example – and that example should be one of maintaining your motivation no matter what.


Be constructive

When your employees are at fault, making them feel bad or guilty is only going to kill their motivation. Instead, you have to approach things from a different angle. What’s better is if you give them a constructive angle to work on things for the future. You should treat the bad news almost as if it is an afterthought to the future plans you can put in place for improvement. Never single out an employee as having done badly, especially in front of their colleagues. If you do need to talk to someone privately about their performance, again try to emphasise constructive ways forward rather than blame.


End on a high note

The worst thing you could do is to deliver your bad news and then walk away. Instead, try to maintain a positive attitude by ending on a high note. Talk about what you are going to do to address the situation, and how you are going to get through it as a team. Focus on positive action and on the thought that things are going to get better. Once the bad news has been delivered, there is no reason to concentrate on the negative anymore. This will help your team to recover from what they have heard and push on towards motivation again.


Lend your help

It’s also important that employees know that they can count on you in difficult times. Lend them a hand. Tell them that if anyone wants to talk about the recent news, your door is always open. If they need help to understand where to go from here, they can come to you as well. In cases where hard work is going to be needed to get through the bad times, you can offer your literal help by aiding where you can in their day to day work. This will make it easier for everyone to remember their part in the team and to pull together, maintaining their motivation.


Allot some time to processing

Don’t expect your employees to dive back into work straight away if the bad news is particularly shocking. Allow them some time to process what they have heard and to understand it. Allot a longer lunch break or allow employees to do what they like for an hour after your announcement. For the first day or two, you can ease off on deadlines, but then you must get back to normal as soon as possible to keep motivation on track for future success.


About the author:

Alana Downer is a business and finance blogger who often writes about making a business successful and profitable. She is also a staunch supporter of achieving financial independence and supports Learn To Trade – a trader training program.

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