How to Communicate Difficult Decisions with Your Team

How to Communicate Difficult Decisions whilst Retaining a Positive Relationship with your Team

To be an effective leader, mastering the art of communication is essential – especially when having to communicate bad news.

When in a position of leadership, tough decisions are par for the course, but delivering the news in a way that maintains positive relationships with your workforce is important to prevent them from jumping ship. Whether communicating a reduction in budget or staff, a change in benefits or providers, or moving premises, doing so in a way that involves honesty and tact will help your team adapt positively to the change. It can also reinforce your position as a trustworthy leader, capable of transitioning the team through any decision – no matter how difficult.

To communicate difficult decisions whilst retaining positive relationships with your team, consider the following:

1. Be direct
Breaking the news in stages, or without fully disclosing the full ramifications of it, can cause employees to react negatively. Rather than dressing the decision up as something it’s not, communicate clearly exactly what is happening, when, why, and who it will affect.

becoming-effective-leader-management-guide2. Be honest
Difficult decisions will always have downsides, so be honest about what those are. Acknowledge that there will likely be a period of transition, and answer honestly any questions that may come up. By giving your team an opportunity to share their concerns and grievances, you are reinforcing that they are valuable to your organisation, which can help maintain a positive relationship.

3. Break the news tactfully
It is inevitable that some if not all employees will take a business decision personally. It is in these scenarios that delivering bad news tactfully is incredibly important. Even small things like choosing when you’ll break the news and the phrasing you’ll use can make a difference in how both the decision and you are perceived.

4. Reinforce company values
Remember that shared vision you’ve worked so hard to communicate to your team? Reinforce that now. Take the time to remind employees of the end-goal, and why this decision – however unpopular or difficult at the time – is essential to reaching it. Shift the focus away from the negative aspects of the decision, and reiterate the positives wherever possible.

Take advantage of every opportunity to practice your communication skills so that when important occasions arise, you will have the gift, the style, the sharpness, the clarity, and the emotions to affect other people.

Jim Rohn
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