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

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