The Secret to Giving Your Boss Bad News Without Freaking Them Out
Darn-it. You screwed up. Or, perhaps you trusted your team and now you have empowerment fun amok. You don’t want to blame them, but you’re mad too. Your boss will be ticked. And worse, she might have to tell her boss. It’s time to come clean. How do you tell your boss the bad news?
The biggest mistake you can make with bad news is to wait too long. Your boss would rather know what’s going on, even if you don’t need his help.
Bad News the D.A.R.N. Way
When it comes to accountability conversations, one of the more challenging ones is when you’re the one who must be accountable—and give your boss bad news.
Let’s start with what we call the “No Blindside” rule.
If there is bad news to share, it’s always best that they hear it from you.
Not from another team member, not a client, and absolutely not from the news.
Don’t let your boss be surprised by bad news.
Now, the way you share it also gives you a chance to build your credibility and influence.
I had a direct report named Kim, that was so good at this, I took what she did and thought, “I’ve got to turn that into an acronym to make it easy for others to do. Here’s what Kim did and why it worked so well.
Kim’s Approach to Accountability Conversations (When She Was the One with the Bad News)
You see back in my call center days at Verizon, my team knew there were two things that would really get me fired up. First, if someone mistreated a customer. And second, integrity issues.
Kim knew that the situation she had to tell me about involved both. One of the supervisors on her team had seriously mishandled a customer situation AND they had lied to cover it up.
So Kim came to me using what we now refer to as the DARN method.
D- Disclose. (Explain the situation and root cause)
Kim came to me and explained the situation in detail. And then what she did next was magic.
A-Accountability. (Don’t be a blamer of bad news)
She took complete accountability for the bad news. Even though it wasn’t actually her who had screwed up, “honestly, I should have been closer to this situation”
R- Response. (Share your solution to fix the situation)
Then she shared exactly what she had already done to rectify the scene. “I’ve called the customer to make it right. And, alerted our social media team in case the customer goes to Twitter with this. I’ve given the supervisor a final written warning.” Her bad news was softened by her elegant response.
N- Next Steps. (Explain your plan and what you need next)
Your turn. What’s your best advice for sharing bad news with your boss?