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Breaking Bad News: 4 Mistakes Southeast Asians Should Avoid

Doing these things can make matters worse

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BY Marishka M. Cabrera - 13 Jul 2018

Breaking Bad News: 4 Mistakes Southeast Asians Should Avoid

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

It could be letting someone go. Or a major client suddenly backing out. Whatever it is, Southeast Asian start-up founders need to come clean to their clients, investors, or employees sooner rather than later.

It’s tempting (and only natural) to want to make a difficult situation more comfortable, Amy Morin writes in her Inc. article. But overdoing it can lead to even bigger boo-boos that can make matters worse.

While there is no easy way to deliver bad news, avoiding these mistakes will help you handle the situation with grace, composure, and a clear head to think of your next steps.

1. Softening the blow

Morin cautions against mixing praise with criticism (or the good with the bad) and making the person believe that things could change down the road. It will leave the person confused and unaware of the real issue.

Instead, be kind but direct. People will appreciate honest communication that makes them feel like you trust them to be mature in dealing with disappointment.

“Although it may sound harsh to say, ‘You’ve made too many mistakes. You can’t work here anymore,’ it offers the recipient a clear explanation and will help them move on,” Morin writes.

2. Delaying the inevitable

When founder and CEO Valenice Balace was encountering some rough patches in her Manila-based dating platform Peekawoo, she felt reluctant to tell her investors at the time. By the time that she did, some felt annoyed.

“I think what made it worse was I waited a long time before I relayed the bad news,” Balace says in this Inc. Southeast Asia article. “I was always the type who wanted to solve problems on my own and only asked for help when I really needed [it].”

Letting the people concerned know the real score early on would prevent misunderstandings along the way. While daunting, talking to them will help clear the air so both parties can move on. Who knows, they may even help you find solutions.

3. Getting lost in jargon

Again, there is no use trying to disguise the facts, as Alison Davis writes in her Inc. article. Don’t hide behind corporate speak in the hopes that somehow the news will be less devastating.  

“If people are losing their jobs, for example, that’s a layoff — not ‘right-sizing,’” Davis writes. “Provide context, but lead with the what — then follow up with the why.”

Tell it as it is, but show people that you still care about their feelings by explaining to them the reason or context behind the bad news. If you get an emotional response — from an employee who is being let go, for instance — allow him to vent and be there to listen.

4. Being unprepared

“When you’re nervous or upset, you’re likely to forget what you’re going to say,” Morin notes. “And if the other person becomes upset, you’ll be even more likely to get off course with your conversation.” 

She suggests having a simple outline of the points you want to say so you won't forget anything. You may have only one chance to talk to the person, she says, so it is all the more important to get it right.


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