HOW to . . . 



Communicate a

Bad News Message                






Want to be ahead of schedule?  Want to do well on the Group Case Study?

Is your answer, “Yes”? 




Here is a 4-step process that will help you establish a strategy when communicating bad news – a negative response to a question, having to say “no” to a request or any other message that has a negative content for your audience.






The Buffer. 


Begin by finding something pleasant (or least disagreeable) to tell the audience or requester. 




For example, “Thank you for applying to our company for a job.” 


Facts/Reasons; Bad News.




NOTE: The phrase

“As you know. . .” or

“It is true . . .”

and similar words are effective to begin this Step 2.


For example, after giving reasons, then write or say “As you know, we receive hundreds of applications from new graduates and others looking for Co-op places.  Since there is so much competition, we are forced to choose only a few students from each major.  In management, we have already filled our limit for this year, so we cannot accept you in our company now.” 

Compensation or Alternative.


Offer an alternative or another choice or a suggestion.

to compensate for the bad news, if possible.  


NOTE: The words “However” or “Even though” are effective to begin this Step 3.


For example, “However, we will keep your resume on file.  We encourage you to keep looking for a position and wish you good luck.


[Of course, this must be true – it is not effective to just make up some compensation that is not true]  Remember, this step is not always possible, in the real world of work.  However, we will always practice it in our class.


Thank you; Point to the Future.



End the conversation/presentation/written communication with another thank you and point to the future, if possible, (that the situation may change).


NOTE:  Do not communicate something false, however, or give silly hope for something that will never happen.



For example, “Thank you again for applying to our company.  If there is any news in the future that would be important to you, we will certainly contact you immediately.”





[A 5th grade teacher writes to the local nuclear power plant manager.  He wants to have a tour of the plant for his students.]

RESPONSE From Power Plant:

Thank you very much for your letter requesting a tour for your students in the 5th grade.  Teaching young boys must be a great satisfaction for you, and I congratulate you on your idea to inform them about nuclear power.  [this is the content of STEP 1]


As you know, nuclear power is a dangerous technology that only experts can be close to.  the rules of the power plant only allow certain employees to enter the building and other areas of the plant.  Unfortunately, the young boys in your class will not be allowed into the plant, to insure their safety against the danger that is there.  [this is the content of STEP 2]


However, they can still learn and be on the plant compound at the same time.  We have a Visitor’s Center, and they can see a video about the plant.  In fact, I will personally be there an answer any question you and the boys may have.  Or, if you wish, we can send our Public Relations Information Manager with the video to your school and make the presentation there.

You may want to be the host and invite the entire school.  Please let me know your decision by March 1, 2001, so we can arrange everything.  [this is the content of STEP 3]


In conclusion, thank you again for your request, and if the situation changes in the plant in future years, I will inform you. [this is the content of STEP 4]