Need to share bad news with your boss?

4 Jul 2022

At some point, you’re going to have to share bad news with your boss. These conversations are an inevitable part of every job and they can be daunting. But, you can use this four-step framework to make telling your manager about a big problem go more smoothly:

Step 1: In a couple of sentences, summarize what happened, when it happened, and who is affected. Be concise and avoid the temptation to go into too much backstory so you don’t come off as defensive.

Step 2: For each stakeholder that’s affected — this might be customers, your team, other teams, the overall business, or a combination of these groups — identify what the specific impact is. Does it financially hurt the company? Are customers unhappy with their experience? Did employees lose trust and morale?

Step 3: Propose a solution. This will show your manager that you’re a problem-solver. Be specific and explain why you think your solution will work. It can help to lay out backup plans in case your plan A falls through.

Step 4: Take action. You should leave this meeting with a clear agreement on who will do what by when. As you wrap up the conversation, show that you’re committed to implementing the solution and reiterate how you’ll avoid this issue in the future. This is your moment to take accountability and initiative.

Following this framework will not just help you have difficult conversations with your manager. It will also demonstrate that you can think strategically and lead a productive discussion.

This is a summary of How to deliver bad news to your boss, an article I originally wrote and published for Harvard Business Review. You can read the original article here.