Factors to consider when selecting a medium to communicate bad news

In an organization, communication is not just sending and receiving messages. Rather, it entails how organizations present, constitute, and represent organizational climate and culture – the attitudes and goals.

For the manager, he/she is expected to uphold this culture through strategies that support the organization’s long term objectives and set goals. Bad news includes but not limited to news regarding sacking, demotion, suspension.

However, the news is not mostly the worst part of the communication process, rather, it is the channel chosen that determines reactions expected and whether the intended purpose will be achieved.

Factors to consider when selecting a medium to communicate bad news

  • The number of people you are targeting
  • The location of the audience
  • Type of the audience whether public or private
  • The significance of the news
  • Need for feedback
  • Need for a written document

The number of people/audience

Every communication medium has its optimum audience number and critically analyzing the objective and requirements of each medium is crucial.

If the intention is to communicate bad news to many people, the electronic medium is more convenient. However, if communication is intended for a few people, it is convenient to use phone calls or face to face communication to create a better chance to explain the significance of the news.

Location of the audience

If the audience is situated over a wide geographical region, using electronic means like phone calls which reduces the cost to both the organization and the audience as well.

For short-distance communication, the best medium would be face to face communication. Talking with the audience can help reduce the negative impact bad news can have on the audience’s psychological and mental state.

Type of the audience

If the message is intended for the public, then best medium to use would be that which does not focus on confidentiality, but which provides a wide range of options like emails

If the intended audience is private for instance a segment of employees in an organization, it is best for the manager and organization to employ a medium that keeps the message private and confidential.

Significance of the news

Every news or message whether bad or good has a varying significance on the receiver and sender. For more significant news, the sender may decide to take the message instead of using electronic means while the less significant news, would be conveniently communicated with electronic means

Need for feedback

If the sender requires feedback from the receiver, then a medium that connects the two parties is best while for bad news which do not need any feedback from the receiver, the sender may use one-way communication methods like written letters

Need for a written document

Some messages require the receiver to acknowledge they have received and accepted the message, and others their signature or letter may be needed. Such would require a medium that closely connects the sender and the receiver.


Effective communication can be challenging because of what?
Communication is a complex process that factors in feelings, cultural components, audience expectations, etc.

Steps in the communication process include:

  • Selecting a medium
  • Encoding
  • Avoiding barriers

During Medium selection…
The communicator determines the best delivery method for achieving communication effectiveness.

When you encode a message…
You are translating the meaning of a message in to words, images, or actions.

To decode a message
you must interpret where meaning is associated.

Additional considerations for achieving effective communication include…
Eliminating barriers, such as physical noise.

Interaction model of communication
introduces both the idea of feedback and the context ; the external circumstances and forces that influence communication is introduces with the interaction communication model.

Physical context
involved conversation of where communication is taking place, such as the physical distance between communicators.

Psychological context
is consideration for what thoughts are circulating through a communicator’s mind.

Transactional communication model.
expands on context and recognized additional types of context that affect communication: social, relational and cultural.

Social context
refers to the social norms that guide communication choices in certain situations: in classroom, you may wait to be called on before you speak. Within a group of friends you speak more freely.

Relational context
refers to your relationship with your audience.

Cultural context
refers to the learned behaviors of a specific culture, which may vary from another culture.

NACE found employers rated these skills more important than technical knowledge:

  • Ability to work in a team
  • Ability to verbally communicate
  • Ability to obtain and process information.

Graduate Management Admission Council rated these skills most important for new hires:

  • Oral communication
  • Listening skills
  • Written communication
  • Presentation skills.

Research by American Express and Millennial branding: Employers report young workers are not effective with:
Interpersonal interactions
time management
willingness to work as a team

New Grads workforce readiness study: Dissatisfaction with recent college graduates :
Written communication

Social media
Expertise can benefit both small and large businesses. The ability to effectively interact with customers through social media can make a significant impact on the bottom line.

What characteristics will help you communicate effectively?
Being strategic
Being professional
Being adaptable.

What questions to ask when considering how Audience- oriented you’re being?
What content will your audience need or want?
How can you make the message easy for your audience to understand?

Refers to the qualities that make you appear businesslike in the workplace. It also involves being

  • Appropriate
  • Clear and concise
  • Ethical

Expressions that mean something different from the literal meanings of their words.

Interpersonal Communication
Listen, understand, and build relationships.

Written communication
Specific, direct, and concise.

Spoken communication
Capture attention; begin with a short summary, even if you have a long message.

Components of ACE
Analyse- your communication situation so that you make good decisions.
Compose- efficiently and effectively.
Evaluate- to ensure your communication will achieve its goals.

Before thinking about what you are communicating …
analyse why you are communicating.

is the ability to influence an audience to agree with your point of view, accept your recommendation, or grant your request.

Primary Audience
The direct recipient of your message.

Secondary Audience
anyone else who may receive a copy of your message ( or hear about it).

Primary and secondary research
Primary- collecting your own data
Secondary- using information other people have collected.

How to handle information that conflicts with your position.
Failing to address relevant information is an ethical error of omission.

What are the four key elements involved in composing?
1.) Deciding when and where to compose.
2.) Organizing the content.
3.) Drafting the content
4.) Drafting the message.

Composing Involves
*Organizing the content so that is id understandable from the audience’s perspective.

  • Putting the content into coherent sentences and logical paragraphs
  • selecting a medium that is professional.
  • Designing a format that makes the communication easy to follow.

The creative process of getting information on the page.

Three important techniques for long business email.
1.) Begin with a focused first paragraph.
2.)Use topic-specific headings
3.)Format list using bullet points

Documents typically sent as hard copies or as email attachments to internal audiences-people within your organization.

How to memos differ from emails?

  • Memos do not include a salutation
  • Memos do not include complimentary closings and signatures at the end.
  • Memos are often longer

Letters are typically for more ….
formal communication and intended for external audiences- people outside your organization.

Use ACE to consider cultural differences:

  • How familiar is the audience with American English?
  • Does the audience’s culture value directness or indirectness?
  • Does the culture value getting down to business or taking time for relationships.

How does Evaluating improve your communication?
*content helps you achieve purpose and outcome

  • for clarity and conciseness improves comprehension
    *for styles and tone helps you project a professional image.
  • for correctness increases credibility
    *Reviewing feedback helps you become a better communicator.

Active voice
the subject performs the action of the verb

Passive voice
the subject does not perform the action.

When can you use passive voice?
If you don’t want to assume blame.
When you want to emphasize a certain word by making it the subject of the sentence.

how you express yourself rather than what you say.

the image your language projects about you. Keep tone professional and courteous at all times.

Positive wording
creates an optimistic, encouraging, and often more informative message.

Two keys to a conversational style
short words and short sentences.

Common types of errors.
Content errors- mistakes in the substance of the message.
Spelling errors
Typographical errors- mistakes made in typing
Usage errors- errors in the way language is used.
Grammatical errors.
Format errors- inconsistencies in design techniques within a document.

Routine business messages
are short, straightforward, and non-sensitive communication that asks and answers questions, provides information, or confirms agreements.

Goodwill message
dive you the opportunity to establish and sustain a positive relationship with your audience.

How do you compose messages containing messages and requests?

  • Decided between a direct or an indirect message.
  • Provide reasons for the request
  • Adopt a “you” perspective and include audience benefits.
  • Conclude with gratitude and a call for action.

Direct organization
is usually more effective because the audience immediately knows what you want.

Indirect organization
places the main idea at the end where the audience could miss the request.

Avoid what kind of requests?
Implicit requests may be ambiguous.

Using a “You” perspective helps you think primarily about:

  • What your audience needs or wants to know.
  • What questions your audience might have
  • What organization of content will make most sense to your audience.
  • How your audience will benefit from your message.

Two elements that are typical at the end of a request
1.) Expression of gratitude
2.) a specific call for action.

How do you compose informational messages?
Reply to questions with a direct answer.
Respond to customer requests and comments by creating goodwill.
Highlight key points in confirmation messages.
Organize routine announcement so they are easy to skim.
Format instructions so readers can easily follow the steps.
Keep text and IM message short and focused.

Most answers to questions benefit from what kind of response?

a message acknowledging that you have received information or understood a message correctly. Oral agreement

parallel phrasing
the same grammatical form for each item in a list.

Ace for IM messages
Keep the message short and to the point.
Do not text messages that require a long or complicated response.
Do not expect a quick response.
Avoid using abbreviations, be polite, and use complete sentences.
Double check the autocorrect

The bcc — blind carbon copy
email feature allows you to copy someone on an email without the recipient knowing it. Use a bcc to…
reduce long recipient lists,
enable centralized tracking of information, and
share information with interested parties.

three different examples of using bcc in business:
1.)Sending an email to employees who are late in submitting travel reimbursement requests; using bcc for all recipients prevents a long header in the email and potentially embarrassing some employees (functional and ethical)
Sending an email to the technical support group to report a problem and, at the request of the IT group’s supervisor, including the supervisor using bcc, allowing her to track problems without being copied on follow-up emails (functional and ethical)
Using bcc to include your colleague in emails as you negotiate pricing with a new supplier; your colleague wants to have access to this inside information to help him with his own price negotiations with this supplier, but he doesn’t want the supplier to be aware of his inclusion (troublesome)

What kinds of messages build
goodwill in relationships?
Thank-you messages
Congratulatory messages
Sympathy messages
“For-your-information” messages

Goodwill expressions serve what two purposes?
(1) they make your audience more receptive to your message, and (2) they make your audience feel good about their business relationship with you.

is the process of influencing your audience to agree with our point of view, accept your recommendation, grant your request, or change their beliefs or actions in a way that facilitates a desired outcome.

(Persuasive) Analyzing helps you plan your message…
In persuasive situations, you will increase your chances of getting a positive response by spending extra time on the ANALYZING phase of the ACE communication process.
Because persuasion is a process, it often requires multiple communications, with each message contributing to your persuasive goal.

A response intended to prove an objection is wrong (e.g., “No that is wrong, and here’s why”).

An admission that the opposing point of view has merit but does not invalidate your argument (e.g., “Yes, that may be true, but … “).

What are the basic elements
of persuasion?
This section addresses three elements of effective persuasion as identified by Aristotle…

Building credibility (ethos)

Constructing a logical argument (logos)

Appealing to your audience’s emotions (pathos)

Credibility is critical for
capturing an audience’s attention and persuading them to listen.

Credibility –
An audience’s belief that you have expertise and are trustworthy based on your knowledge, character, reputation, and behavior.

To establish and maintain credibility:
Get to know your audience.
Establish your credentials.
Present your ideas effectively.
Tell the truth.
Take responsibility for mistakes.

Logical arguments
provide the foundation for most persuasive business messages.

Present logical arguments and evidence to support a business decision.
Numerical data
Expert authority
Personal experience

Appealing to your audience’s emotions…
all people—even people of different cultures and different generations—share a common set of needs. At the basic level are physiological needs of food, clothing, and shelter. Once those needs are met, people will seek to meet increasingly higher levels of need. They are: safety, love and belonging, self-esteem, self-actualization. You can make use of these appeals in your business communication.

Researchers such as Robert Cialdini have identified a number of psychological principles…
Social Proof

Logical fallacies
occur when you overstate your case, divert attention from problems with your position, or attack an opponent. Avoid fallacies in and recognize them when others use them against you so that you are not persuaded by unsound ideas.

Being a persuasive business communicator requires:
A “you” perspective.
An understanding of what motivates your audience.
An understanding of what will prevent an audience from agreeing with you.
Strategic use of persuasive techniques to…
Address your audiences needs and concerns, and.
Help them accept your ideas.

Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action.

Grab the audience’s attention. Your wording should make the audience want to read or hear more about your product or service by focusing their awareness.

After gaining the audience’s attention, you need to build their interest in the product or service by describing how you can meet their needs.

Creating a sense of desire involves reducing the audience’s resistance to the sales message, which is especially important when you create unsolicited sales communication, or cold-call sales messages—messages you send to audiences who did not request the information. However, reducing resistance is also important in solicited sales communication—messages you send to audiences who did request the information.

Motivate your customer to act and purchase the product or service by using strong but professional wording and by making it easy for the audience to respond

If you communicate bad news ineffectively,
you risk angering people, potentially losing customers, clients, or employees, and facing legal liabilities.

How will you deliver bad news?
Analyzing is crucial to developing a message that supports your business goals and positively affects audience reaction.

What are the effective strategies for composing bad-news messages?
Decide where to state the bad news.
Phrase the bad news clearly.
Soften the bad news.
Close the message positively.

For both direct and indirect approaches
“softening” the bad news helps the audience accept the message.

The end of a message provides an opportunity to be forward-looking, instill confidence, and promote goodwill.
Propose a solution.
Propose an alternative.
Create options for future business.
Focus on a benefit.

How should you evaluate
bad-news messages?
Evaluate the message’s clarity, honest, and sense of goodwill.

Evaluate the business result.

maintaining credibility and goodwill
by Taking responsibility for mistakes and bad decisions

One approach to acknowledging mistakes
Announce the bad news.
Put it in context to soften it.
Assume responsibility.
Provide an explanation.
Outline next steps to fix the problem and prevent re-occurrence.

To maintain positive relations and project a positive image of your business…
state bad news clearly,
soften its negative effect, and
counter bad news that others may spread about your business.

While bad news may disappoint your audience, you want them to…
understand your rationale,
believe you are reasonable, and
feel good about you and about themselves.

Businesses can get additional benefit by using social media to…
build goodwill,
persuade, and
control the spread of bad news.

Content marketing
A technique for persuading customers by providing them valuable information without trying to sell them anything.

The Fogg Behavior Model
The Fogg Behavior Model suggests one way social media can motivate audiences to action.

The Fogg Behavior Model elements
Motivation—The first step in influencing behavior is to motivate your audience.
Triggers—The cues or prompts that call your audience to action.
Ability—Simplify the audience’s ability to respond.

Control the spread of bad news
through social media
Have a social media crisis management plan in place.
Respond quickly.
Respond genuinely.

Can you trust consumer reviews in social media?
84% of Millennials say their purchasing decisions are influenced by consumer content on the web. But is that content trustworthy?

How do you determine what information you need?
Analyze the research question and topic.
Identify audience concerns and needs.
Establish the scope of the research.
Define research activities.
Develop a work plan.

Analyze the research question and topic
First, analyze your research question by identifying a broader set of sub-questions you need to answer.

Then, before exploring those questions, analyze the topic by asking background questions to understand the history, context, structure, and categories.

Use the three As to determine the reliability and
relevance of print or online sources…
Authorship: can you trust the author and publisher?
Accuracy: can you trust the information?
Age: is the information current or still relevant?

How do you conduct
primary research?
Conduct survey research to gather information that is easy to compare.
Conduct interview research to gather in-depth information.
Conduct observational research to understand how people act.

Conducting research and organizing your findings efficiently and effectively…
Begins during the analyzing phase of the ACE process.
Requires flexibility—at any stage in the process, you may develop new questions that uncover new research needs.
Depends on your having a clear research plan —knowing what you want to learn and what sources to utilize.
Puts you in a good position to use your research to write proposals, reports, and presentations.

a communication designed to persuade a business decision maker to adopt a plan, approve a project, choose a product or service, or supply funding.

three types of persuasive proposals common in the workplace:
internal proposals for action or change
external sales proposals to provide products or services
funding or grant proposals

Solicited proposal
a proposal that your audience has requested.

Unsolicited proposal
A proposal that your audience was not expecting.

Request for proposal (RFP)
An invitation for suppliers to competitively submit proposals to provide a product or service.

The items or services you agree to your audience.

Executive summary
A condensed description of a document that summarizes key ideas.

How should you organize the content?
1.) Overview or Executive summary.
2.) Introduction.
3.) body
4.) References
5.) Appendices

What word choices will be most effective?
Active voice.

The proposal must…

  • articulate the problem, need, or opportunity
  • identify the outcomes and benefits
  • present a compelling recommendation
    *provide persuasive supporting details that emphasize feasibility and credibility.
  • request action.

Business case
A justification for a proposal showing that the recommended course of action is good for an organization and makes business sense.

An solicited sales proposal…
Makes a persuasive case that the audience will benefit from what you propose.
May serve as a sales contract, identifying exact deliverables, costs, time frame, and circumstances.

An unsolicited sales proposal…
Functions like a targeted marketing letter directed to someone you believe may benefit from your product or services.
Aims to generate interest and encourage further discussions.
Has no contractual elements.

A grant proposal…
Requests project funding from external sources such as government agencies or charitable foundations.
Must show you meet the funding criteria of the agency or foundation.
Must include all the information required by the agency or foundation.
May be prepared as a formal report, letter, or online submission.

Steps for a grant proposal
Identify a funding agency that is a good match with the project you are trying to fund.
Identify a contact person at the funding organization and arrange a personal meeting.
Draft a proposal that addresses each topic area.
Draft a cover message.

Structure a formal proposal
like a formal report
Cover message introduces and explains the proposal, persuading the audience to read it
Title page provides proposal name, submitter and recipient information, and date.
Executive summary provides all the important points in one page.
Table of contents allows readers to find information that interests them.
Body pages (multiple) with headings.
Reference list documents all works cited in the proposal.
Appendices provide information that is too detailed to include in the body.

Software as a service (SaaS)
Software that is hosted by the software provider and available on the internet.

Repurposing content
Reusing content you have already created.

Informational report
A report that provides readers with facts that they can easily understand and refer to when necessary. Meeting minutes, trip reports, and progress reports are types of informational reports.

Analytical reports
A report that analyzes information to solve a problem or support a business decision.

Report deck
A report document written in Powerpoint or other presentation software.

One or two paragraphs- often included at the beginning of a formal informational report- that either (a) describe the content of the report so that a reader can decide whether to read the report or (B) briefly summarize the report, including the main points, conclusion, and recommendations.

Executive summary (Business report)
A separate, stand-alone mini-report- included at the beginning of a formal analytical report- that completely summarizes the main ideas and recommendations of the report and may be read instead of the main report.

A document that is included with a letter or memo report to provide supplementary information.

Reference list
A list of secondary research sources used in a research report.

Feasibility report
A report that analyzes whether a plan can be implemented. It may also consider how to change to make it feasible.

Recommendation report
A report that analyzes options and recommends a course of action.

Evaluation report
A report that assesses the success of a project.

A version of what someone else says, but in your own words and with your own emphasis.

A very brief version of someone else’s text, using your own words.

Professional brand
The image you present of yourself that makes you stand out compared to other applicants.

The circle of people who are aware of your career goals and can help you learn about career opportunities.

Unique selling propositions
Skills or qualities that set you apart from other applicants.

Elevator pitch
A concise statement designed to communicate your vale and initiate a deeper conversation with a prospective employer.

Chronological resume
A traditional resume style that lists content sequentially, starting with the most recent experience.

Functional resume
A contemporary resume style that emphasizes categories of skills rather than jobs.

Combined resume
A resume style that takes advantage of both the chronological and functional methods of organizing content by highlighting work experience by date and skill sets by category.

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