Sunday, November 27, 2011

I love bad news

Probably not true. A mentee asked me once, “Why do managers not like bad news?” While the answer seemed obvious, I took a moment to understand the question.

It was clear from the question that this person (and probably many people) had not been rewarded for telling their boss something bad that they needed to hear. Often the bearer of bad news becomes associated with the news itself. Shooting the messenger is a common trait of leaders with limited emotional intelligence. I once lead a quality organization and it became clear to me that I was the grim reaper of constant bad news. I had to purposefully starting inserting good news stories to avoid that “dark shadow in the doorway” image. Mature leaders of high emotional intelligence are able to encourage their teams to bring them news of all types without over reacting.

Do you act or react when people give you bad news. Do you reward people for keeping you informed or punish for being the messenger? How have you been able to overcome the desire to shoot the messenger?


Allen L said...

When you are in a job where people must bring you bad news, you just have to think of your self as a "firefighter". The bad news is your fire alarm and your real job, putting out the fire starts

J Wong said...

This is a good point John, I guess my issue is (if you can call it that) is when someone brings me bad news about something I instantly want to fix it and do whatever it takes to help them overcome the hurtle or the road block that is causing/ creating the bad news. I have found however that sometimes the employees needs to take on these challenge themselves so they can benefit from the learning process and I keep myself from getting involved in everything that comes along (this is my area for growth).

The best way to ensure employees do not keep bad news from you as a manager is to encourage open and honest communications. Embrace the news as just that, news, and get the team rallied around how to overcome the bad news or how to learn from it. This will help set the tone for the culture of your team and how it deals with unpleasant news.

Balu said...

Bad news are challenges we have to face. Bad news brings opportunity for learning and improving the way we work.

However too much of bad news is that the team is not engaged enough to see it coming and resolve them or something serious with the way we are doing business.

The first reaction is natuarlly against the messenger however I try to get into more details of the problem and thereby try to separate the person from the problem. Works most of the time!

John Bishop said...

Nice insights and comments.

I too, like JW, have to avoid helping everyone that shares with me. This is particularly difficult with very junior folks when you know they are being taken advantage of.

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