Deliver bad news early and often

Avoiding the clientSometimes, these things just write themselves. Or I write them, when I’m doing something else. Either way, this little ditty I composed seem worthy of inflicting upon the masses.

I’m going to elaborate a bit on a problem with which I’ve struggled my whole professional life. (I’m sure Toby will be willing to corroborate this.) It has to do with “client service” and “account management.”

And please bear in mind, that even though I refer to your “client,” this could just as easily be your “boss.”

With that said, sally forth, gentle reader.

I hate delivering bad news. And I’ve had a really hard time of it on both the consulting sides and the corporate sides of the desk.

I take it as my making a mistake. Or estimating poorly. Or managing poorly.

So I clam up. I go dark.

And, this tends to cause more problems than not.

Kinda like when those precocious Brady kids were playing ball in the house and broke mom’s vase. But then they didn’t tell her. And then they filled it up with water. And then what happened?

Don’t act like you don’t know what I’m talking about.

You see, I’ve discovered that when a client has to ask for bad news, they tend to get pissy. In fact, having to ask tends to perturb them even more than the bad news itself.

Now that I’m in the role of client with Kumquat, I’m discovering that, firsthand.

So, I thought it would be helpful to share some advice that someone much wiser than I imparted to me:

“Deliver bad news early and often.”

Because, lacking any information, the client makes the worst assumptions. Ignorance will cause them to make the situation much more dire than it is.

And really, when it comes right down to it, you can’t avoid delivering the bad news. And if you try, you’re only making it worse.

You’re just delaying the inevitable.

Would that it were that all the projects you manage go along swimmingly. But no project ever does. And nobody is ever perfect. But you’re a lot closer to perfect when you’re open and honest about the situation.

So, tear off that bandage, my friend. With one quick hair-ripping pull. And give your client the bad news.

You’ll feel better. And so will they.

About Rick Turoczy

More than mildly obsessed with the Portland startup community. Founder and editor at Silicon Florist. Cofounder and general manager at PIE. Follow me on Twitter: @turoczy
This entry was posted in Communication, Failure, Fear, Honesty, Management, Mistakes, Tips, Transparency. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Deliver bad news early and often

  1. Toby Lucich says:

    It’s true. Maybe less so today, but I’ll vouch for him.

    Good post though, which can’t of been easy to write – bad news and all for the squeemish.

  2. Rise says:

    So true. Now that I am managing a team of 6, I understand why I need to get the bad news first from my teammates. I don’t like surprises. Sometimes others defer to tell the bad news but it only makes the matters worst.

    Good post.

  3. Pingback: How Much is a Referral Worth? | More than a living

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