Jul 122017

How To Deal With Difficult News In Your Business

How do you deal with difficult news in your business?

I’ve seen a variety of approaches from the different entrepreneurs I’ve known. Some take the “ostrich approach” and bury their heads in the sand. Others choose to deal with difficult news head-on.

From my perspective, the head-on approach makes more sense. To illustrate why it makes more sense, let me ask you a question.

Is difficult news easier to deal with ahead of, during, or after the difficult event that it portends?

In my experience, it’s generally easier to deal with it ahead, preferably as far ahead as possible, of the difficult events or challenges it foretells. If you get the news and deal with it as early as possible, typically you have more options than if you only deal with it as, or after, the events unfold. Let’s look at an example.

Let’s say that you hear “through the grapevine” that there’s a high probability that one of your major customers is going to defect to one of your competitors. Would it be better to hear this three months in advance, a week in advance, the day they actually move, or after they’ve already moved?

Obviously, it’d be better to hear the difficult news well in advance, so you have a chance to deal with it and perhaps even change the outcome.

That’s the real point here: when you hear about difficult news, you don’t want to just bury it “under the rug” or somewhere in the back of your mind. Rather, you want to consider your options, and then take action!

You may decide that the proper course of action is to do nothing, but at least that will be a conscious decision.

So, it’s pretty clear that you should deal with difficult news as early as possible. Should you teach your employees and others in your inside circle to do the same?

The answer to that question is also a resounding “yes”!

You want to create a culture in your business, and really, everywhere in your life, that encourages those around you to communicate and deal with difficult news as early as possible.

What’s the alternative? It’s to create a culture that rather than dealing with difficult news head-on, deals with it by procrastinating, or worse yet, by taking the “ostrich approach” and pretending nothing is wrong.

The bottom line is that your decisions will only be as good as the information upon which you base them. You want your team to provide you with updated information, good or bad, but especially the difficult news, as early as possible.


If they don’t, the odds of your getting blindsided go up substantially. The odds greatly increase that something you could have dealt with, had you known about it, turns into something much more serious, perhaps even catastrophic.

In order to get your team to provide you with up-to-date information, even when it may include difficult news, you need to make it “safe” for them to do so. As the saying goes, “don’t shoot the messenger”. Really, you want to take it a step further and reward people, not necessarily monetarily, though sometimes even that is warranted, but definitely at least with a “good job, I appreciate the heads-up”.

This should be obvious, but I’ve seen too many instances, especially of late, where otherwise intelligent people get blindsided because they take the “ostrich approach” to dealing with difficult news, rather than addressing it head-on. Don’t let it happen to you.

I look forward to your thoughts and questions.


Paul Morin