How to Deliver Bad News

Did you see the video of Better CEO Vishal Garg firing 900 people over Zoom?

The video and associated commentary are all over the news and social media. Here’s how CNN described it: “Better CEO Vishal Garg announced the mortgage company is laying off about 9% of its workforce on a Zoom webinar Wednesday, abruptly informing the more than 900 employees on the call they were being terminated just before the holidays.”

In the video, Garg comes across distant, unsympathetic, and curt.

Garg has since penned a letter and posted it on Better’s website, apologizing for how he handled the situation. “I own the decision to do the layoffs, but in communicating it, I blundered the execution. In doing so, I embarrassed you.” He further explained that he “failed to show the appropriate amount of respect and appreciation” and that he “made a difficult situation worse.”

The Reality of Bad News

No one likes to receive bad news, and no one wants to give it either. However, as a leader, you often find yourself involved in both types of conversations. Here’s a bit of advice. If you’re going to deliver bad news to others, strive to be:

  1. Tell people the situation, why it matters, and how it impacts their lives. Avoid spinning, posturing, and ambiguity. Now is not the time to leave loose ends. It is time to be clear and specific.
  2. If you’ve been leading a team of people, they know how you typically behave, act, and approach situations. Don’t try to be someone else and put on a corporate face – be yourself. They will appreciate the authenticity.
  3. We all must take in bad news sometimes and it’s not easy. Your people will have to process bad news in their way. So be respectful. Give them some time to process the information and be available to help. Remember, they’re human beings dealing with something new to them.
  4. Building on the idea of respect, work to put yourself in your team members’ shoes. Consider how you would feel at that moment. Now is not the time to focus on you and how hard it is to deliver uncompromising news or how you’ve overcome difficulties yourself. Now is the time for you to empathize with your people and allow them space to express their feelings and concerns.

If you’re a regular reader of mine, you know I love a good acronym. With that in mind, the four actions, Clear, Authentic, Respectful, and Empathetic, spell out C-A-R-E.

When you deliver bad news, show people that you’re a leader who cares for them. To help you do that, we include a tool and video. The tool provides a graphic reminder of the four actions. Keep it handy and put it to use the next time you share bad news. The video provides you with thoughts on the subject worth watching and sharing.

In addition to the video and tool, I’m excited to share with you a podcast conversation that I had over a year ago with UniWorld CEO Monique Nelson. Our discussion focused on being bold and following your gut. Although the podcast is on hiatus until the new year, the learning continues. I encourage you to invest 30 minutes in yourself and learn from Monique’s experience.


Photo by Roman Kraft on Unsplash