Why Delivering Bad News to Clients isn’t Always the Worst

28 Nov 2016 Bryan Shaw

We’ve all been there. The moment you begin to perspire and you feel your heart slowly sink into your stomach.  You’ve just been made aware that you have to deliver bad news to one of your clients. What do you do? Do you ignore the problem? Conjure up excuses? Or do you face it head on and deliver the gut-wrenching truth?

Let’s take a step back for a moment and dig a little deeper into why a lot of us find ourselves experiencing this uneasiness. In an attempt to avoid speculating too much, however, I will tell you why I feel the way that I do. The short answer and simple answer is that I care. I care a lot, in fact, and I always want to succeed. My passion for recruiting is deeply rooted in being in a position where I can help others whilst providing solutions to my clients. So, when things go south, it’s far too late to separate any emotional energy that I may have coursing through my veins. I’m already personally invested, and there is nothing I can do to change that.

Having been in the industry for well over a decade, I have been in this situation far more than I would care to admit and will undoubtedly be there again (hopefully not too soon, though). Unfortunately, each and every time I have to deliver bad news to a client heart still sinks and the sweat comes. In spite of this, I’ve learned to recognize that each of these moments of complete discomfort are actually unique scenarios for personal and professional growth.

Needless to say these aren’t your traditional opportunities that one can prepare for, and in my experience, more often than not, bad news tends to come with very little warning, not unlike tornados, earthquakes or stubbing your toe. On the other hand, I would argue that you have prepared for them your whole life. All of your life, experience gives an inclination for a split second, and what I mean is this… intuition kicks in and is not typically something that can be switched on and off at will.

Explaining the truth is not always everyone’s first instinct.  So, in order to fine tune this skill, honest communication needs to be practiced. As difficult as this sometimes seems, it’s your key to building a true partnership. Sure, your client will be upset, but what will be revealed to them is that they can trust you. This is priceless. It tells them that no matter how bad things get, at the very minimum, they can rest assured knowing they will be informed and can plan accordingly. Just because I have an outdoor wedding, doesn’t mean I want the weatherperson to tell me it’s going to be sunny and 72. I need the facts. Make sense?

Don’t get me wrong, I will do everything and anything to avoid these hairy situations, but I firmly believe that when faced with such a challenge, it’s always best to roll up your sleeves, take full ownership and direct all energies to service recovery.