¤Virtual University Of Pakistan Network¤
How to effectively convey disappointing news in a letter
In your professional life, you will face a variety of situations when you will have to write a letter to convey any disappointing news to your reader. In such situations, your success will depend on how effectively you communicate the refusal in an inoffensive way.
Read the below given scenario carefully and critically evaluate the poorly written body of the letter. The letter body is not effectively communicating the negative or bad news. Identify why it is not the effective way to communicate bad news and discuss which approach and ways will be more effective to convey this bad news.
“A drama producer working in any famous TV channel receives an invitation for a workshop from XYZ University. This University arranges this workshop on drama production for its students of mass communication yearly and invites the same producer to deliver a special lecture on drama production. Unfortunately, producer is unable to attend the workshop this year due to his other professional commitments. Now he has to write a letter of refusal to that invitation”.
Unfortunately, I would not be able to attend the workshop as I am occupied in my other professional commitments this year. I am engaged in some outdoor productions scheduled abroad for our TV play that is to be on aired by this month which is taking all my time. I express my regret for not being guest speaker at University’s upcoming workshop.
1. Your discussion must be based on logical facts.
2. The GDB will remain open for 2 working days/ 48 hours. (Change if more days are allowed)
3. Do not copy or exchange your answer with other students. Two identical / copied comments will be marked Zero (0) and may damage your grade in the course.
4. Obnoxious or ignoble answer should be strictly avoided.
5. Questions / queries related to the content of the GDB, which may be posted by the students on MDB or via e-mail, will not be replied till the due date of GDB is over.
Ø For Detailed Instructions please see the GDB Announcement
Preparing to give bad news.
Prepare for it, because when you have bad news to convey in a professional environment, there are ways to do it correctly, and ways to make a mess of it. There are different approaches to this and different techniques, depending on (among other things) the nature of the news, the circumstances in which it is delivered, the gravity of the news, and how the news will be used. The following set of steps will give you some guidelines about how you can create the appropriate result with the appropriate impact.
While reviewing these methods, you will see one that stands heads above the rest from a philosophical point of view, and it is presented last. The first methods you see are here because they are common techniques and you should know how to recognize them. Only the last one has the element of true character. That doesn’t mean, however, that you should ignore the first ones. They do have their place. Just be aware of when they are appropriate and when they are not.
Never, never, never give bad news first!
The Spin Technique
You might see this used in political venues and by corporations broadcasting to the public; no matter how bad things are, everything is presented in positive terms: "I’m pleased to report that at this pace he will finish with school and that he is currently in the upper 98% in his class of only 100 students!" The presentation may appear to be "off the cuff" but in reality it takes careful planning and well-timed delivery. (If you didn’t catch it, the quote above does not say he will graduate, and the upper 98% in a class of 100 means there are only two worse students. The word "only" is added for no reason other than to distract and confuse.)
1Know your subject well: You are going to make bad news sound like good news. To do so effectively, you must be knowledgeable of other facts and issues that are close to the situation. If, for example, you are presenting bad news about the deterioration of a forest due to extensive lumber harvesting, you must also know about other environmental impacts (e.g. fauna habitats). In this approach, you will be questioned about ancillary items. Be prepared.
2Use statistical references: Using numbers to back your presentation is a powerful tool. The truth is that, if carefully prepared, statistical references (this is different from real statistics that might weigh against you) can be used to back nearly any position. That doesn’t make the position right, but it does add power to your presentation. It’s a Sophist approach (Sophists focus on being able to argue either side with equal effectiveness – usually categorized as individuals without regard for "truth").
3Do not present points that do not support your position: Having said that, it is possible there are points you know will be raised. It may be desirable to diminish those points during your presentation. If that is appropriate, do not disparage or "brush off" the opposition, but rather indicate why those opposing points are either irrelevant or incorrect. Don’t spend a lot of time on this – the more time you take the more solidly the opposing positions will be anchored. Address them and move on. "To address animal protectionist concerns, we have thoroughly studied the impact on local fauna and conclusively proven it to be negligible. We will make our studies available to appropriately qualified reviewers." End of story – no questions.
4Give the appearance of being intellectual: You don’t have to be a Rhodes Scholar to make your point, but it’s important that the audience believes you are well versed on this, and other related subjects. References to obscure but pertinent facts can have a powerful psychological impact. "As most of you know, the six-year-old gymnogyps mates in the early fall and our efforts are clearly sensitive to this important event."
5Be upbeat: There is a line, often crossed, between an upbeat presenter and a snake oil salesman. "Trouble with a capital ‘T’ and that rhymes with ‘P’ and that stands for pool!" Even if you are selling snake oil, you don’t want to come across that way, right now. Remember, this is a bad news presentation.
6Be ready for fallout: This technique is almost always transparent on an intellectual level. You are appealing to an immediate emotional reaction. After that reaction fades, the hope is that your sound bites will have enough exposure to carry. You will definitely get commentary on the "glossed over" areas. How you handle that is not within the scope of this document.
Compare and Minimize
You probably see this most frequently in reviews of activities gone wrong. "Things could have been much worse. Yes, there may have been mistakes made but we had a good plan and executed it perfectly. Remember how bad things were when the same thing happened two years ago? Well, this was much better in every measurable way." This type of presentation is often used to (try to) conceal fault. It rarely does that, but on a positive note it allows the presenter to admit mistakes and save face at the same time. On the downside, it will appear childish and petulant, if not performed well. "But mom! Nobody did good on the test and Johnny and Mary even got an F and the test next week is the important one!"
1Identify common references: You want to find other, similar events that had less favorable outcomes. You will use these as comparisons. Generally speaking, the more the better, but don’t use the entire list – keep some in reserve for backup. Definitely, the worse those other things are, the better the comparison. "The outcome of our efforts was phenomenal when you consider that three of the other teams failed to recover over 30 times as many."
2List every good thing that was done: You’re not going to ignore the bad news, but you want the focus to be on the effort rather than the result. "Despite the hazardous working conditions and the lack of proper funding and the obvious lack of local support those men and women persevered and overcame - they deserve our deepest thanks!"
3Focus on the future: Catastrophes are nothing more than opportunities to improve. When you start talking about the future, you must expand on recent efforts. Don’t point out the things that weren’t done, but rather stick to how this lesson showed how the good things that were done can be improved and can be done better and faster. "I'm going to work even harder to make sure the fallout from events like this are minimized, even further!"
The Sandwich Method
Good News – Bad News – Good News
In business environments you will often find that the earlier "slick" presentations just don’t work. This is particularly true when ethics and accountability are held to high standards. This method gives you a way to present bad news in a way that both starts and ends on a positive note without "smoke and mirror" techniques. "Ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased to report that our new testing procedures have improved our failure detection by 97% over the past three months. We had one catastrophic failure which, regrettably, resulted in the loss of an expensive robotic arm, but on a more positive note, the arm was scheduled for replacement during the next fiscal year and this event allowed us to advance our retrofit which has further increased productivity."
Identify the good news: Before the negative event, what was going well? Find something that was on the up swing that is related to the bad news. It’s important to present this first. Do not ever present the bad news first. If you do that, the audience will often focus on that and you will lose their attention – they won’t even hear the good news. Give them something interesting so they’ll want to hear more.
Present the facts: After the initial good news, lead directly into the bad news. Don’t segue with "and now the bad news" or you’ll deflate the positive impact the previous good news brought. When you state the bad news try to be be somewhat monotonic in nature but don’t waiver and don’t be apologetic.
Outline the positive results: You’ve stated exactly what happened. Now, most importantly, what did you learn from it? Bad things do happen; accept it. But you can use those events to improve. This is most commonly called a post-mortem analysis. Done properly, such an analysis can lead to dramatic improvements. When you present your summary of the post-mortem, you will be telling the audience how this negative event poses a future benefit.
Avoid excuses: Yes, it happened. No, it wasn’t a good thing. No, you’re not trying to dodge responsibility. Your objective is to state the news and nothing but the news. You’re simply going to put it in such a way that the audience recognizes you as a person of integrity. When done properly it’s likely you’ll get a round of applause by using this method.
Avoid finger-pointing: Instead of a blame fixer, be a problem fixer. Don't try to assign the bad news to someone - not even to yourself. Quibbling over who did what to whom behind which barn isn't going to solve anything. We were having a good day, something bad happened, here's what we're doing about it.
YE HINT HAI EFFECTIVELY BAD NEWS K AUB AP KHUD LIKHAIN K SCANRIO MAIN KIA GHALTI HAI JO K ACCORDING NHN HAI GIVEN HINTS K