top of page

Leadership Communication: How to Deliver Bad News to Team Members

Leadership Communication

Managers are always looking for better ways to deliver tough messages. The most common types of tough messages are:

  1. You did not get the promotion.

  2. We lost project funding.

  3. You are being pulled from this project.

  4. You are underperforming for your level.

  5. Today is your last day.

Imagine someone was delivering this message to your son or daughter. How would you want them to say this?

You want this message delivered clearly and compassionately. You want to remind them that past mistakes do not guarantee future mistakes. Everyone has enormous capacity for improvement and success. This could be an inspirational moment with your team member all by the way you structure the message.

Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  1. Decide what emotion you want them to feel in your interaction and come into the meeting in that emotion.

  2. Begin reminding the person about their bright future.

  3. Show compassion and appreciation for the person in your face and in your vocal tone.

  4. Take your time. Slow down your speech rate, so every word can be heard.

  5. Prepare your point of view and constrain it to 90 seconds or less.

  6. Schedule the right length of time. If you want discussion and problem solving, set up a 45-60 minute meeting. If you want them to bring a solution, send a pre-read and begin asking if they have any questions. If you want minimal discussion, deliver the conclusion, share next steps, and end the meeting.

  7. Determine your closing sentence in advance.

by: Stephanie Bickel


Great leaders and speakers start with Speak by Design. Learn the techniques and build the skills with us. Speak by Design University is the only leadership communication program in the world that gives you access to self-paced learning, group coaching and training and, most importantly, private one-on-one coaching. Learn more and register.


bottom of page