The Art of Delivering Bad News Sooner (Rather Than Later)

I had some water issues last week  – burst pipes within my building had meant there were issues with my water and for 2 days, water in our building did not work properly. I phoned to the property management company the day after the issue first start and was told that the situation was being worked on. In two days, the whole thing was resolved, and clear, clean water once again flowed normally through my faucets. 

I’m grateful for the return to normalcy, as it is difficult to live without water. 

This experience, though, is a good reminder in how important proactive communication is. In maintaining relationship within the world of business as well as at work, with friends or family, proactively bringing up issues before they become problems is vital to keeping trust and patience. Without this type of communication, feelings of frustration, anger, confusion arise from a place of fear and unknown – as what I had experienced in having no idea what was happening with my apartment’s water supply or how long the situation would last.

By contrast, a past experience that I had with American Express, reminded me the benefit of proactive communication – even in the face of bad news.

My credit card had been compromised – someone had stolen my credit card information and decided to go on a spending spree at a distant Home Depot, a destination that I don’t often frequent. Within 15 minutes of the purchase, I had received a phone call from a representative asking if the purchase was mine. When I confirmed that it wasn’t, the representative let me know my card had been compromised and I would receive a new one soon. 

How did this situation differ from my experience with the burst pipes at my apartment?:

  • I knew the bad news quickly
  • I knew that someone was working on a solution
  • I knew what that solution was and approximately when the issue would be resolved (i.e. I was told when I would receive my new credit card)

Proactive communication – even when delivering bad news – is so much more easily accepted than late communication. As a marketing and communications professional, this is an important professional and personal lesson to reinforce.


Jen Burstedt

Burst Pipes & Life Without Water

As a city-dweller, or even in my former life as a suburbanite, I didn’t think too much about drought. In my memory, the worst thing that drought ever mean was taking shorter showers and having my parents water the front lawn less. I had never experienced a faucet that wouldn’t return clean, potable water. (I realize in writing this that I’m part of a lucky minority of this world that can say these things.)


Clean, cool water from Lake Tahoe – taken summer 2013.

Until moving to my apartment in the Tenderloin.

Wednesday morning: the first time that I ever turned water out of a kitchen sink, made and drank a cup of coffee… and then looked at my glass kettle sitting on the stove and realized that the water was an sickly, unnatural shade of yellow.

I felt queasy – more from the anticipation of some kind of poisoning due to contaminated water more than anything. I then proceeded to rush off to work and forgot about the whole incident until about 8 hours later, when I was reminded of the situation.

“What if I drank contaminated water?” The thought flashed through my mind, but it was already 8 hours later; most reactions to drinking contaminated water would happen more quickly than that, seems to be the common consensus.

Nothing happened, so I guess the water was okay.

I texted one of my neighbors, who lives on the same floor as I do, to see what her situation was. She reported that black water had come out of her faucets.

I called in the day after to the property management company to see what was going on. Apparently, some emergency where a pipe had burst happened.

Were residents informed? No.

In the age of email, text and other types of communication, at what point does a company have an obligation to communicate to its tenants (consumers) the potentially danger problems it is having?

Luckily, I have a network of family and friends in the area, so if I have to avoid sleeping at my apartment in order to be able to access water, I can easily do so. But, not everyone has this ability, and at this point, I don’t even know how long it will be until everything is back to normal.

As a new resident to the Tenderloin – the party of the city that I once shied away from and thought that I would never live in, I’m starting to see a different side of life.



Jen Burstedt

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