emailing and telephoning business

Writing Emails: Giving Bad News

When giving bad news in an email, it’s extremely important to communicate ideas clearly and respectfully. In the email below, Carl Lane has been forced to give his colleagues some very bad news. Mr Lane does some things well in this email, but there are also some things he can improve. Read the email, and then read our tips for giving bad news in written form.

Sample email:

Dear colleagues,

As manager of the TURN project since 2008, it has been my pleasure to share in your success and watch the development of the project from the very beginning. All of us have worked hard and shared in TURN’s success. Now, I am faced with the most difficult task I have had as manager of this project. We received this news one month ago, but wanted to wait until we felt the time was right to deliver it.

I am very sorry to inform you that the project has been canceled effective July 1st, 2013. As of then, all project positions, including assistant and secretarial, are terminated.

There are many factors involved with the cancellation of our project: our failure to secure the PX19 contract, the recent 10% increase in material cost and a 30% drop in Sales were all involved. Every employee of the company knew these developments were negative in terms of our bottom line, a fact that the Board communicated via company-wide email in December, 2012. Despite these difficult circumstances, every member of our team worked diligently to help our project succeed.

I would like to thank you for your hard work over these past five years. If you have any questions regarding this very unfortunate news, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Carl Lane

Writing emails that people read: Free eBook downloadPositive points to use in your emails:

•    He writes respectfully (but not too formally). Employees should always treat each other with respect, but at a difficult time like this, it’s especially important for the team to know that their work was appreciated. It’s also important to use the correct level of formality. Too formal and you can sound rude. Not formal enough and it can seem like you’re not taking the situation seriously enough.
•    He states the reasons for the cancellation. This is major news, and the employees deserve to know the causes for the change. It should never be left to the employees to speculate about what happened.
•    He mentions written records of past performance. Mr Lane mentions the memo written by the Board in December. Even though they didn’t save the project in the end, it’s important for employees to know management was aware of the problem and working to solve it.

Things to avoid or do better in your emails:

•    He doesn’t address other people affected by the news. Mr Lane says that employee positions are canceled, but he doesn’t mention any of the other people who might be affected by the cancellation. This could include clients and investors.
•    He doesn’t mention anything positive. The news is bad and there is no hint of a future for the members of the project. Is the company possibly looking for other investors or is there a chance the project could be saved? Employees might be confused by this lack of mention of the future.
•    He didn’t deliver the news immediately. Unfortunately, Mr Lane waited to deliver the news. Perhaps the company wanted to see if the situation would improve, but the employees deserved to be informed about the situation.

Giving bad news is never easy, but by keeping the above guidelines in mind, your bad news letter can be written in an effective, respectful way. For more tips on this sensitive subject, please check out this link. Do you have something to add to this post? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.


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