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5 Tips for Breaking Bad News to Your Boss

Sometimes, having really difficult conversations is part of our job. And, even worse, sometimes those talks are with our boss. So, if you have some bad news you need to deliver to your employer, first take a deep breath, and then consider these tips. They might come in handy.

Sometimes, having really difficult conversations is part of our job. And, even worse, sometimes those talks are with our boss. So, if you have some bad news you need to deliver to your employer, first take a deep breath, and then consider these tips. They might come in handy.

monkeys talking 

(Photo Credit: Freshly Diced/Flickr)

1. Don’t try to find a way around it.

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Avoiding the situation is only going to make things worse and prolong your agony. If you have to deliver some tough news, don’t spend your energy trying to come up with a way to get out of it. Someone else isn’t a better person to deliver the news, and things won’t change if you wait a little while longer. Question the tricks your mind is attempting to play on you, and accept that you need to bite the bullet and do this.

2. Don’t delay.

Your boss will appreciate that you brought this to her attention sooner rather than later. It really only adds insult to injury to delay with this kind of thing. People (and bosses in particular) like to feel like they’re in the know. If the news only makes its way up the chain of command after already circulating throughout the rest of the office, it’s going to make matters worse.

3. Don’t go on and on.

Research has found that people tend to be more verbose when emailing up the ladder. It’s probably because we’re nervous and trying to be thorough when communicating in this context. However, it’s something to keep in mind when delivering bad news to your boss. If you are short and sweet and to the point, rather than going on and on, it could help demonstrate that this isn’t such a big deal after all – that you’re taking it all in stride and everyone else should too.

4. Take responsibility for your part.

When you’ve made a mistake, it’s important not to sugar-coat your response – be direct instead. Take full responsibility for your part in the problem, don’t try to shirk the blame onto someone else or minimize the cost of the error. Your boss will respect you for taking responsibility.

5. Don’t let mistakes happen again.

It’s a somewhat lofty goal (because, we’re only human) but also perhaps a good one to try and never make the same mistake twice. Part of the benefit of owning our errors is that when we face them, we truly learn and grow. So, if you played a part in creating this bad news in the first place, resign yourself to never letting that particular mistake happen again. Your boss will be able to sense this commitment from you, and she’ll notice your progress and growth as you move forward from this.

We all make mistakes. It’s how we handle them when they happen (not if) that distinguishes the leaders from the rest of the crowd. So, be brave, be honest, and tell your boss what you need to say. Everything is going to be all right.

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