The Five Components of a Bad-News Message

Instructor: Tara Schofield

Tara has a PhD in Marketing & Management

You have bad news to share. It's uncomfortable. It's awkward. You are unsure how to present the information. By using the five components presented in this lesson, you can effectively handle a negative situation with style and class.

Communicating Bad News

It may not be a devastating event where people are hurt, or huge amounts of products must be recalled, but it is likely that you will need to deliver bad news at one time or another. You may have to share negative information with customers, give employees bad news, or you may have to handle a public relations nightmare. Regardless of the situation, there are five components of a bad news message you need to consider when handling a difficult response.

The Five Components

1. The opening. In this section, you will address the audience. The audience may be a single customer, an employee, the community, customers, or even the general public. The purpose of the opening is to explain the reason for the communication.

2. The message. This component delivers the bad news and addresses the issue head-on.

3. The support. When supporting the bad news, additional information is presented to explain why a decision was made or how the bad news affects the recipient(s) of the message.

4. The alternatives. When presenting bad news, it helps to soften the message by offering options or alternatives. This shows understanding for the frustration or inconvenience the recipient may experience because of the situation.

5. The close. When ending the message, an affirmative tone is offered to end the message positively.

An Example

Let's say you have interviewed an individual for a position and have decided to go with a different applicant. You informed each person that you would send an email to let them know the results of the interview. Unfortunately, you can only hire one person and must share the bad news that the remaining candidates did not get hired.

Understanding the five components, you create a message to share the bad news with each person.

1. The opening: You first address the individual. You thank them for coming in for the interview and explain that you are following up, as promised.

2. The message: The second portion of the letter explains that they were not selected for the position. You soften the message as much as possible, making sure you are still clear that the person is not being offered the job.

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