Bad News Comes From You First
Sometimes bad things happen.
News that’s not ideal has to be shared quickly with those who have to make repairs or may be impacted by the fallout. Among those who need to hear the news posthaste is your leader.
Leaders hate to be surprised by bad news. The good ones would rather hear about what occurred immediately so they can prepare for whatever questions they might receive. In many cases, their ability to rally support and release resources to address the issue is paramount.
A leader needs to quickly learn about any such incident or event. But that is not all a good leader expects. The bad news must come from you first before others beat you to it. Your credibility is being tested. It’s measured by the level of confidence and alacrity you bring in delivering the bad news.
Unless your leader hears from you directly, they question what else you might not be telling them. Their suspicions concern them for a good reason. People who can be trusted to solve the problem are never shy about communicating the problem.
Trust is broken when leaders learn from other sources what has occurred. By the time you offer the bad news, they are already in a state of dismay. Why have you delayed? Did you think they wouldn’t learn of it? Are you competent enough to handle the issue? Their questions rarely reflect well on you.
Voicemails, texts, or emails don’t cut it. For bad news, credible leaders get to their leader directly and as quickly as possible.
If you’re boarding a plane and can’t reach the leader, then leave a message that says you must talk with them immediately upon landing. When they hear the news before you land, they know you were trying to tell them directly. This helps to allay their deepest fears — that you lack the mettle to deliver the bad news.
All leaders treat bad news with the highest priority. Nothing travels faster. And it never improves with age. The rule to remember is that bad news always comes from you first. Good leaders never forget that. Let good news take the scenic route.
Bad news requires the express lane.