How to Present Bad Work Related News to Your Supervisor

Three Parts:Presenting the Bad NewsDetailing the ProblemPresenting the Solution

Having to deliver bad news to a boss or supervisor is always uncomfortable. If you have to be the bearer of bad news to your boss, it's important to know the best way to deliver the news to make sure it doesn't negatively alter your supervisor's opinion of you. Picking a good time is important, as is having a solution ready that you can offer up as you deliver the bad news.

Part 1
Presenting the Bad News

  1. Image titled Present Bad Work Related News to Your Supervisor Step 1
    Don't wait too long. You may be tempted to hold off on delivering the bad news because you don't want to be blamed for the bad news, even when it's not your fault. However, delaying will often make the problem worse.[1] For one, if your boss finds out that you didn't tell them, they're going to be even more unhappy. Also, if your boss has the bad news, they'll be able to prepare for the consequences instead of being blindsided by them, which means the company's reaction as a whole can be more positive.[2]
    • In addition, the sooner you get the information to your boss, the sooner they can take it to their boss, if they're not the head of the company.
  2. Image titled Present Bad Work Related News to Your Supervisor Step 2
    Find a good time to talk. Keep your eyes open to see when your boss seems less busy. When you notice their workflow slowing down a bit, go in and ask if you can talk to them. That way, you give them a chance to push it off to another time if they don't have the time right now.[3] You could also pick a time when you know the person will be in a good mood, as then the bad news won't come as such a blow.[4]
    • For instance, you could say, "I have something I'd like to discuss with you. Is now a good time?" Also mention about how long you think it will take.
    • You definitely don't want to catch your boss as they're trying to get out the door or running downstairs for lunch.
    • You could also send an email asking about a good time if that's more your boss's style.[5]
  3. Image titled Present Bad Work Related News to Your Supervisor Step 3
    Get to the point. Trying to soften the blow with rhetoric is not going to help. Just get to the point. Your boss is busy, and most busy people prefer directness, as it takes less time and they don't have to guess at what you mean. Therefore, have a concise statement to open the conversation with.[6]
    • For example, you could use a statement like, "I need to report some problems with the new line."
    • On the other hand, if you know your boss likes small talk, it can help soften the blow to chat a bit first.[7]
  4. Image titled Present Bad Work Related News to Your Supervisor Step 4
    Pay attention to your tone. Your tone sets the mood. If you treat the problem as something that can be fixed and you remain positive, your boss will likely see it that way, too. However, if you're all doom and gloom and come in with a depressed posture, your boss is going to pick up on that, too.[8]
    • Make sure you stand up straight, look your boss in the eye, and speak in a clear tone of voice. That shows you have the confidence to solve the problem.

Part 2
Detailing the Problem

  1. Image titled Present Bad Work Related News to Your Supervisor Step 5
    Talk about the problem in more detail. Expand on what you think the problem is and how you think it will affect the company. You can also explain how it could affect your work or other coworkers. Be sure to offer specific, detailed information, but also try to keep it concise. A long paragraph should be enough to provide detail on most problems, at least at this stage.[9]
    • As an example, you could say, "The new line isn't going over well with our test groups. In fact, if we put the line out as it is, it's predicted our sales could drop drastically. The main problem is the style. Most users find the product useful, but they just don't connect with the style. Since our company's brand is built on style, this problem could be significant."
  2. Image titled Present Bad Work Related News to Your Supervisor Step 6
    Be ready to explain why. Whether it's your screw up or a systematic problem, you need to be able to talk about why you are bringing bad news to the boss. Make sure you have all the information you need to explain what's going on and how it happened. If you can pinpoint the exact point that something went wrong, that's even better.[10]
    • To know why, you're going to need to do some investigating beforehand. Gather all the information you can on the situation and talk to any relevant employees about the situation.
  3. Image titled Present Bad Work Related News to Your Supervisor Step 7
    Try not to focus on blame. If possible, leave blame out of your explanation. That is, unless it's your job or unless your boss specifically asks, don't try to place the blame on a particular person, even if it is their fault. Doing so will just create ill will and won't help solve the problem. Plus, it can make you look like you're just trying to pass the blame.
  4. Image titled Present Bad Work Related News to Your Supervisor Step 8
    Let your boss vent. Your boss may find the news upsetting, and if that's the case, give them a chance to let it out. Venting frustration can be helpful, and it gives them a chance to figure out what to do next. However, don't take anything your boss says personally. It's often not about you.[11]
    • Letting your boss vent about the problem is not the same as letting them scream at you. That is, if you feel like your boss is taking their anger out on you, such as screaming obscenities, you can say something like, "I see this problem is upsetting you, but I'd appreciate it if we could discuss this matter more calmly. I can come back later if I need to."
  5. Image titled Present Bad Work Related News to Your Supervisor Step 9
    Stay calm. You should be calm when presenting the news, but you should also stay calm even if your boss starts getting mad. If you start getting angry and upset, you're only going to escalate the situation, and then both of you are going to be more stressed out. You don't want to stress out your boss more. That's a recipe for disaster.[12]
    • If you feel yourself getting angry, pause to take a few deep breaths and calm yourself. Remind yourself that you need to stay calm no matter what.

Part 3
Presenting the Solution

  1. Image titled Present Bad Work Related News to Your Supervisor Step 10
    Have a solution ready. Of course, you don't necessarily need to have fixed the problem, though it can be good if you have. However, having an idea of how the problem could be fixed or even a couple of ways you could go about fixing it can help smooth the waters.[13] It's even better if you can present three solutions, as it gives your boss a sense of control to make a choice but not so many choices that it's difficult to choose.[14]
    • For example, once you present the bad news, you could say, "Now here's what I think we can do to fix this issue. I think we need to hold off production and go back to the drawing board on style. I also think we need to bring in some new people on design."
    • If you don't have a solution yet, let your boss know you are working on one (and follow through). While it is okay to ask for advice, especially if you are in over your head, be aware that when it comes to promotion time, bosses are looking for people who have the initiative to work through a problem on their own.
  2. Image titled Present Bad Work Related News to Your Supervisor Step 11
    Be ready to talk about how the solution will affect the company. It's not enough to just have a solution. You also need to be able to discuss what the solution will cost the company, both in terms of supplies and company time. Also talk about why you think the solution will be effective and how it could change the problem for the better.[15]
    • You could present it this way: "I think bringing in new people will help shake up the style department, which in turn can help marry our traditional styles with something more innovative. While halting production will cost the company about $200,000, I think that it's the best option for producing a line that the public will embrace. Plus, we now have the feedback from the study groups to take back to design."
  3. Image titled Present Bad Work Related News to Your Supervisor Step 12
    Emphasize the good points. Even if the solution will cost the company money, it's important to discuss how the company will benefit from it. Focus on those benefits when you're presenting your solution to your boss, as they'll want to hear what the bottom line is in how the company can come out on top.[16]
    • For instance, you could say, "In the end, I think revamping the style for our new line will benefit the company greatly. The product is rock solid, and the focus groups responded well to the functionality. In fact, many commented on how well it worked, despite the fact that they didn't like the look of it. By taking the proper time to focus on the style, we'll be putting out a product that's well in line with our brand image and that will be appealing to customers both for its functionality and beauty."
  4. Image titled Present Bad Work Related News to Your Supervisor Step 13
    Offer an apology. You don't want to absolutely fall over yourself with apologies. However, if you're partially to blame in the situation, you can apologize to your boss for the part you played. Just make sure to keep your apology short, professional, and to the point.[17]
    • For example, you could say, "Ms. Rogers, I'd also like to apologize for the part I played in this situation. I should have known better."
  5. Image titled Present Bad Work Related News to Your Supervisor Step 14
    Present how you will follow up. Talk to your boss about any ideas or feedback they have on the situation. Once you've come to a decision or at least a way to move forward, make sure you tell your boss how you will proceed.[18]
    • For example, you could say, "I'll write up what we've discussed in an action plan and send it to you an email by the end of the day. Then I'll contact the necessary people to get the ball rolling. I'll follow up again in the week to let you know the progress we've made."

Sources and Citations

Show more... (15)

Article Info

Categories: Interacting with Bosses