Never Surprise With Bad News

Never Surprise with Bad NewsPart of what you do as Technology consultants is to evaluate options and to generate reports and recommendations.  You design and implement solutions.  You upgrade systems.  You are often called upon to resolve serious problems.  You monitor and improve the health of the systems where you are assigned.  You work with members of the user community and with the technical staffs at the client site to meet your obligations.  In most of your assignments, you report to the Executive Sponsor of the client organization either directly or through intermediaries within your company or through the management ranks of the client.

In my experience, the worst fear of most managers is that something bad will happen and they will not be able to resolve it.  In a sense, they fear the unknown.

In your work, you have to provide feedback to management.  You all have human foibles and prefer to provide positive feedback.  You like to give good news!  Conversely, you don’t like to provide negative feedback.  You really hate to give bad news!  The result is sometimes that bad news is forwarded ‘up the chain’ more slowly that good news.  That is exactly the opposite of what you need to do!

When you become aware of bad news, you should verify the accuracy of your bad news.  Once you are certain of the accuracy of your information, you have an obligation to make your management and the client’s management aware of it.  The only thing worse than delaying bad news is to report bad news and to later determine that the bad news was inaccurate.

The client doesn’t want to hear bad news any more than you want to provide it but they need to hear bad news as quickly as possible because it gives them a chance to reduce the potential impact or to correct the cause.

Good news can be a very nice surprise.  If you have good news to share, you may wait a few hours or even days to share that with the client.  You might even wait for a special moment to share that news.  Bad news should never be a surprise. You should share that information with the client as soon as possible.   

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