BlogCommunication Skills10 Steps How to Deliver Bad News to Your Boss

10 Steps How to Deliver Bad News to Your Boss

Boss being angry

At some point or another, most of us have been put in the difficult position of having to passing bad news to our boss. There’s always a wide range of emotions involved, from anxiety and worry over what your boss will say about it to anger that they’re making you do this. If you don’t desire your boss to be mad at you, here are ten steps for delivering bad report to your boss.

Key elements when delivering bad news

Pick appropriate time

The bad news is always tricky, but it’s necessary to deliver evil news face-to-face and not brush them off. Scheduling some time individually with your boss when there won’t be any interruptions will help you get things straight before they blow up in the office.

Don’t just dump it on them.

Once you’ve picked an excellent time to talk, don’t just jump right in with the bad news. Instead, start by telling your boss how much they mean to you and that this is extremely difficult for both of you. This step will help soften their mood, so when things get tough, they’re more likely to hear you.

Be honest

Don’t beat around the bush, and don’t sugarcoat it. If there’s bad news on your boss’ end of things, be upfront about what happened so they can take action before any damage is done or rumors start going around that could worsen a bad situation.

Offer solutions

If there’s something your boss can do to help, offer them some options and the pros/cons of each one. This will show that you care about their input and want to work together on solving this problem. It could also open up a dialogue for discussing other issues they may have been having.

Work it out together.

If your boss has a particular way of doing things or wants to brainstorm some solutions on their own, let them work through the problem in their way. It may take longer, but they’ll be less likely to get angry about any mistakes you make when you don’t have all the details.

Provide updates

If the bad news results from an ongoing problem, offer to keep your boss updated on any progress you make or issues that come up along the way, so they don’t have to worry about being in the dark. If it’s something more short-term and will be fixed soon, update them on the timeframe and how it will be addressed.

Don’t worry about being perfect.

No one’s saying you need to deliver bad news perfectly, but if you do your best to try and cover all bases, then at least there won’t be anything they can take issue with. The most important thing is that you’re honest and give them all the information they need to make a decision.

Leave feeling good about yourself.

Try your best not to take things personally, even if you know it will be difficult for both of you. The important thing is that you keep their feelings in mind when delivering lousy news face-to-face, so they don’t think you’re trying to punish them.

Ten steps how to deliver bad news to your boss

Step One: Make sure you’re clear about the facts. Be honest with yourself and your boss, even if it’s uncomfortable to admit a mistake.

Step Two: Express regret for any bad news that might come from this situation. Remember, there is some good in almost everything!

Step Three: (Optional): Ask permission before you bring bad information to your boss.

Step Four: Think about how you will explain the problem and what you can do about it.

Step Five: Deliver bad news as soon as possible to find a better solution quickly. Remember that time is of the essence!

Step Six: (Optional): If possible, have a backup plan lined up.

Step Seven: Prepare for your boss to be angry at you and deliver all the bad news in one go — it’ll hurt less!

Step Eight: (Optional): Use active language such as “I will” or “we can,” rather than passive language like “I should.”

Step Nine: Be specific about how you will fix the problem at hand and what steps are being taken to do so.

Step Ten: Thank your boss for listening, even if they are angry with you! You did it — they’re not mad anymore!

It might be also useful to see some examples of how to professionally deliver bad news. You should watch “Delivering Bad News – An excellent encounter” to see how to use knowledge in practice.

Some additional tips worth remembering when delivering bad news

Shocked boss looking on the laptop
  • If possible, have an open conversation with your boss before you deliver bad news.
  • Tell them about the problem, what’s being done to fix it and how long it will take for everything to be back on track.
  • If this is a one-time incident, let them know that they can rely on you in the future.
  • This might not always be possible, in which case you’ll want to deliver bad news as soon as possible and then follow up with them again.
  • Don’t keep your boss waiting for the information.
  • If it’s a sensitive issue that is difficult or embarrassing to discuss, set aside some time afterward so they can ask any questions without being interrupted
  • Consider letting them know in advance that you’ll have to passing bad news and what the subject will be
  • Make sure they’re able to hear your message. If it’s something they might take as a personal attack, consider delivering it earlier in the day when things are less hectic or wait until after their meeting so that everyone is on board with the plan
  • When delivering bad news, be clear about what happened and the consequences of avoiding miscommunication.
  • Be honest with them if you’re not sure of anything or need clarification. That way, they know that you are trying your best to make things right. Afterward: It’s essential for both parties involved in a difficult conversation like this to remain calm and take care of their own emotions. You don’t want the pressure of passing bad information to your boss getting in the way of you taking care of yourself before, during, or after
  • Once you’ve delivered bad news, try not to get wrapped up with how they respond. Remember that it’s okay for them to be angry or for their reaction to be unexpected.
  • Be understanding that they’re probably not going to react well when bad news is delivered. If you can’t avoid paying for wrong information, try keeping it short and giving them the chance to speak before leaving.
  • Stay optimistic about what needs to happen next, even if your boss seems down. This is an excellent time to remind them of the successes that you’ve had in the past.

Read also: How To Be Diplomatic and Tactful At Work: The Basics


If you are looking for tips on passing bad news to your boss, we have ten steps to help. We hope these strategies will make this process less daunting and more successful! Thank you for reading our blog post about delivering bad news to your boss. Check out the other posts in our careers section if you want additional advice or information on a related topic.

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Professional consultant and project manager in software houses. He has over 8 years of experience as a project manager for key clients. Currently mainly works on business consulting and communication with strategic clients. Privately a fan of good food, board games, and cycling. He loves to share his experience with new people!

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