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Breaking bad news to your superior
update on Friday, May 20, 2011

Most of us don't bother to tell our boss about the minor glitches that are part of the average workday. But every now and then, something happens that the boss just has to know about, such as a major mistake or a missed deadline. While you may want to conceal the problem until it blows over or is resolved, it's better to be direct. Here are some tips on how to deliver bad news to your boss.

Deliver the message yourself

If possible, arrange a face-to-face meeting to explain what has happened. This allows for a faster, easier exchange of information and shows you're taking the situation seriously.

Offer solutions

Think about potential ways to correct the problem. Discuss with your boss the steps you have already taken and share your ideas for reaching a successful resolution.

Be honest

Be upfront about the scope of the situation, especially when the best solution will be costly in terms of time or money. It is never a good idea to downplay the seriousness of a problem or withhold information.

Don't drag your feet

The last thing you want is for your manager to hear the news through the grapevine or be the last to know.

Don't pass the buck

Address the issue at hand without pointing the finger at others. If the situation is due to an oversight or error on your part, admit your role and accept responsibility.

Andrew Morris, managing director, Greater China, Robert Half International

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