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  • Writer's pictureAmii Barnard-Bahn

Is delivering bad news a skill?

Delivering bad news to powerful people.

It’s an unpleasant task for compliance executives. And a critical part of the job.

Not easy – but somebody’s got to do it.  So here’s the skinny when it’s your turn to be the messenger. When breaking critical business news to the people who need to be looped in, you’ll have a much easier and successful experience if you follow these guidelines: 1. Give the headline first – don’t beat around the bush. Be clear and concise with the facts;  Stick to what you know is true. It’s okay to not have all the answers.

2. Allow venting. Your leadership may be angry, disappointed, or anxious at the news. Provide support by showing gravitas – grace under pressure – and not turning away from any displays of emotion. It’s not your job to try and make it better. If anger or blame is displayed, remember: it’s not you that is causing these emotions – it’s the bad news. Be aware of your executive presence - your demeanor is important. Be calm, measured in vocal tone, and maintain good eye contact and open body language to inspire trust.

3. Help them move forward. Tell them what they need to know, allow them to ask questions and propose next steps with a timeline. If they seem to be in denial and ignoring the gravity of the situation, outline consequences and the impact.

4. Set a timeline for follow-up – both for decisions on next steps and for touch base meetings until the matter is resolved. Depending on the severity of the situation, consult outside experts (such as legal or regulatory counsel and communications/PR). Good luck, and let me know how it goes!

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