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Bad News Messages

The Indirect Pattern

Buffer

Reasons

Bad News

Close
The Indirect Pattern
• BUFFER – a neutral or positive opening
that does not reveal the bad news
• REASONS (criteria)– an explanation of the
causes for the bad news
• BAD NEWS – a clear but understated
announcement of the bad news that may
include an alternative or compromise
• CLOSE – a personalizing, forward-looking,
pleasant statement
Avoiding Three Causes of
Legal Problems
1. Abusive language
Defamation – use of any language that harms a
person’s reputation
Libel – written defamation
Slander – spoken defamation
2. Careless language
Statements that are potentially damaging or that
could be misinterpreted (the factory is too
hazardous for tour groups).
Avoiding Three Causes of
Legal Problems
3. “Good-guy” syndrome
Statements that ease your conscience or make you
look good (I thought you were an excellent
candidate, but we had to hire . . . ).
Examples of Bad News Messages
Recommendation refusals
Request refusals
Adjustment refusals
Credit refusals
Order refusals
Learning Objectives

• Analyze bad news messages to verify


that they reflect the six Cs of effective
messages, acceptable message formats,
and the bad news strategy.

• Prepare bad news messages by applying


the CBO approach and the bad news
strategy.
Apply the CBO Approach

Plan a message.
Identify
Compose the objective.
a draft.
Visualize
Choose thewords.
audience.
Complete a message.
Gather supporting
Construct information.
sentences.
Proofread.
Organize the information.
Assemble
Edit. paragraphs.
Choose paragraph locations.
Revise.
Finalize.
Plan a Message

Identify the objective.


Maintain goodwill.
Visualize the audience.
Show
Knowa benefit
the or suggest
receiver’s an alternative.
profile.
Gather supporting information.
Recognize
Choose the sensitivity
relevant facts.of the situation.
Organize the information.
Anticipate the receiver’s reaction.
KnowUseyour
the receiver’s background.
indirect pattern.
Apply the five-part bad news strategy.
Compose a Draft
Begin with a neutral or pleasant statement.
Begin with
Explain theareason(s)
buffer. for the referral.
Choose
Explainwords
why carefully.
you cannot do what the receiver
State or imply the refusal.
Avoid misleading the receiver.
wants.
Statean
Offer thealternative
refusal concisely.
solution or action.
Use the passive voice to avoid sounding
State what
Offer a can be done
constructive rather thansubstitute,
suggestion, what
End with a positive, friendly statement.
accusatory.
cannot be done.
counterproposal, or alternate course of action.
Conclude with a positive statement.
Avoid negative
Explain how thewords.
receiver may benefit.
Avoid trite expressions.
Close with action required by the receiver.
Complete a Message

Proofread.
Edit.
Revise.
Finalize.
Bad News Messages

Requests
Recommendations
Adjustments
Credits
Orders
Bad News Strategy

Follow the indirect pattern.

Opening--Begin with neutral or pleasant statement.


Explanation--Explain the reason(s) for the refusal.
Message Objective--State or imply the refusal.
Additional Information--Offer an alternate solution or action.
Closing--End with a positive, friendly statement.
Techniques for First
Paragraph
• Begin with a buffer —
something about which
both sides can agree
• Avoid empty
acknowledgments of the
obvious
• Avoid tipping off the bad
news too early
• Avoid starting too positive
so as to build false hopes
Techniques for Reasons
and Explanation Section
• Provide a smooth transition
from the opening to the
explanation
• Precede the bad news with
one or more reasons that
are logical to the reader
• Show reader benefit and/or
consideration
• Avoid using “company
policy” as the reason
Techniques for
Bad-News Sentence
• Place negative news in buried
position
• Avoid unnecessary use of
negative words
• State the bad news once; avoid
restating or returning to it
• Emphasize any positive aspect
• Follow bad news with a
counterproposal when possible
Include a Counterproposal
or “Silver Lining”
Counterproposal (tangible or
intangible): states what you can do or
offer

OR
“Silver” lining: provides a thought
that turns the discussion back into a
positive direction
Techniques for
Closing Paragraph
• Convey an empathetic tone
• Avoid returning to the bad
news
• Avoid trite, worn-out
statements that seem
shallow and superficial
• End with a positive, forward-
looking idea
Strategies for Strong
Internal Communication

• Give employees a complete,


rational explanation of the
problem
• Show empathy and respond
to employees’ feelings
• Follow up
The General Indirect Plan
• Begin with a strategic buffer
– Words that set up your strategy and
– Acknowledge any preceding
messages
• Develop the strategy
• Present the bad news positively
• End with goodwill, specifically
adapted.
Brief Review of a Procedure for
a Refused Request
Preliminary considerations:
• The news is bad.
• The reader wants something; you must
refuse.
• Your goals are:
– to say no, and
– to maintain goodwill.
• The first goal is easy; the second
requires tact.
• You must present reasons that will
convince.
Indirect Plan for Bad News
The message plan:
Opening • Begin with words that identify the subject,
are neutral, and set up the message.
• Present reasons using positive language
Body and you-viewpoint.
• Refuse clearly and positively, embedding
where possible to de-emphasize the
negative.
• Include a counterproposal or compromise
when appropriate.
• End with an adapted goodwill comment.
Closing
Larry_Bragg@callawaygolf.com

Request for alumni information

Mr. Bragg,
Your study of the progress of State University graduates is most commendable.
We are pleased that you would ask our help in your efforts.

In reviewing the requirements of your project, we find that it would be necessary


to search through the personnel files of each of our 10,000 employees. As our
regular staff is already working at capacity, may we suggest that we make our
files available to you or your representatives? We ask only that you protect the
confidentially of the information in the files. We would be pleased to give you
working space in the records center. And we would assure you of the
cooperation and assistance of our records personnel.

As another alternative, may we suggest that you use a part-time student worker
who is already acquainted with our files. From time to time, Ms. Mary Mahoney
has worked in
Larry_Bragg@callawaygolf.com

Request for alumni information

center. And we would assure you of the cooperation and assistance of our
records personnel.

As another alternative, may we suggest that you use a part-time student worker
who is already acquainted with our file system. From time to time, Ms. Mary
Mahoney has worked in our file center. We estimate that she could do your work
in about five weeks, working her customary twenty hours a week. The cost would
be about $900. If you prefer this arrangement, we would be pleased to contact
her for you.

We expect that these suggestions will help you in completing your project. We
look forward to reading the results in the Alumni Bulletin.
Terry
Preliminary Considerations in
Writing Adjustment Refusals (1 of 2)
• The decision has been made to
refuse an unjustified claim.
• The news is bad.
• The goal is to present the bad
news in a positive way.
• Thus, you must think through the
situation to develop a strategy to
explain or justify the decision.
Brief Review of Procedure for
Adjustment Refusals (2 of 2)
The message plan:
Opening • Begin with words that
– are off subject,
– are neutral, and
– set up the message.
Body • Present the strategy that will explain or
justify.
• Make it factual and positive.
• Lead systematically to the refusal.
Closing• Then refuse--clearly and positively.
• End with off-subject, friendly words.
Jason Mertz

Payment on Invoice C2005

Mr. Mertz:
Thank you for your check for $945.07 on Invoice C 2005.

Although it is a small matter, I feel that you will want to look over this invoice.
Probably you just looked at the wrong column, but you will see that you wrote
the check for the amount less the discount. As you know, the discount is
allowed only when payment is made within ten days of billing. As Invoice C2005
is now 45 days past this date, we are crediting your account with $945.07,
leaving an unpaid balance of $29.23. I am confident you will understand.

Working with you and your excellent organization, Mr. Mertz, is always a
pleasure. We look forward to serving you again real soon.
Ray Rojas
rjluce@uniquesupplies.com

Special paneling concern

be between you and your architect. I am confident that you will see the justice
in our decision.

We are grateful for the role we have played in constructing your distinctive
building. We stand ready to meet your future needs to the letter.
Dominic Terrado
Preliminary Considerations in Writing
Credit Refusals (1 of 2)
• Refusals of credit are very negative,
tending to reflect on one’s personal
qualities.
• They should be handled tactfully
– because it is the friendly way to do it, and
– because it is profitable.
• Begin by developing an explanation.
– If finances are weak--can be fairly direct.
– If morals are weak--should be tactful.
Brief Review of Procedure for
Credit Refusals (2 of 2)
The message plan:
Opening • Begin with words that
– are neutral, and
– tie in with document being answered.
– set up the strategy (explanation).
Body • Present the explanation and/or justification.
• As a logical follow-up--refuse tactfully.
– If to a bad moral risk, may be by
implication.
– If to one with weak finances,
• should refuse positively, and
Closing • look hopefully to the future.
• Close with goodwill words that fit the one
case and are friendly and forward-looking.
Tact in a Credit Refusal (1 of 3)

Opening
Dear Ms. Herrera:
Your March 29 order and accompanying request
for credit were genuinely appreciated. We are
Click to view full
letter at once.
especially grateful for your pleasant frankness in
presenting your request for credit. The
statements, trade references, and explanations
were most helpful.
Tact in a Credit Refusal (2 of 3)

Body
In checking over them, we find that you have an
unusually heavy burden of invoices to pay within
the next few months. As we see it, burdening
you with more bills to pay at this time simply
would not make good business sense. Thus, we
can sell to you only for cash now. By buying for
cash and taking advantage of the cash discount,
you would be taking a sound step toward
improving the financial health of your business.
Just as soon as your situation is improved, we
shall open your account.
Request Refusals
A request refusal is written when a business must
refuse a request for contributions, use of facilities,
preferential treatment, or special discounts.

Begin with a pleasant or neutral statement that


relates to the receiver.
Give at least one reason for the refusal.
Imply or state the refusal.
Offer a helpful solution or suggestion.
End positively without reference to the refusal.
Recommendations
Consider the following three options for providing
poor recommendation messages:

Inform the person who made the request why you


cannot provide a positive response.
Provide only employment dates and omit references
to poor performance or unsatisfactory evaluations.
Prepare and transmit an unfavorable written
recommendation using the bad news strategy.
Adjustment Refusals
When you cannot make the requested adjustment,
follow the bad news strategy to write an adjustment
refusal.

Begin with a pleasant, relevant statement.


Give a factual basis for the refusal.
Imply or state an impersonal refusal.
Include a resale statement and/or an offer to help.
End pleasantly.
Credit Refusals
A credit refusal for a loan, credit card, extended line
of credit, or credit purchase should apply the bad
news strategy.

Begin with a pleasant, timely buffer.


Give reasons for the refusal.
Imply or state the refusal.
Make a counterproposal.
End with attention on the receiver’s benefits.
Order Refusals
Write an order refusal message when you are
unable to fulfill or ship an order in a timely manner.

Begin with a buffer.


Ask for needed information for incomplete orders;
give a reason for delayed and unfilled orders.
State or imply the delay plan or the refusal.
Offer a resale or an alternative solution.
End with a positive statement.
Bad news applications follow the bad news strategy.

Begin with a neutral or pleasant statement.


 Begin with a buffer.
Explain the reason(s) for the refusal.
 Choose words carefully.
 Explain why you cannot do what the receiver wants.
Statemisleading
 Avoid or imply thethereceiver.
refusal.
 Use the passive voice to avoid sounding accusatory.
 State the refusal concisely.
Offer an alternate solution or action.
 State what can be done rather than what cannot be done.
 Offer a constructive suggestion, a substitute, a
End
 Avoid with a positive,
negative
counterproposal,words. friendly statement.
or an alternate course of action.
 Conclude with a positive statement.
 Explain how the receiver may benefit.
 Close with action required by the receiver.
 Avoid trite expressions.
Recommendation Refusals
• Open with a neutral statement that relates
to the receiver.
• Offer an explanation.
• State or imply the unfavorable
recommendation.
• Offer an alternate solution or action if
possible.
• End with a positive statement.
Request Refusals

Begin with a pleasant or neutral statement that


relates to the receiver.
Give at least one reason for the refusal.
Imply or state the refusal.
Offer a helpful solution or suggestion.
End with a positive statement without reference to
the refusal.
Adjustment Refusals

Begin with a pleasant, relevant statement.


Give a factual basis for the refusal.
Imply or state an impersonal refusal.
Include a resale statement and/or an offer to help.
End pleasantly; emphasize receiver action when
needed.
Order Refusals

Begin with a buffer; the opening statement may


identify the order by date, number, and description.
Ask for needed information if the order was
incomplete; give a reason for the refusal if the order
will be delayed or will not be filled.
State or imply the delay plan or the refusal.
Offer a resale or an alternate solution.
End with a positive statement.