Organizing bad-news messages:
•It’s important that you realize that some people interpret
being rejected as a personal
failure; being turned down for a job or for credit, or even
being rejected in less sensitive
areas, usually complicate people’s lives.
•As with direct requests and routine, good-news, and
goodwill messages, bad-news
messages are best communicated across cultures by using the
and other cultural conventions that your audience expects.
•Your tone contributes to your message's effectiveness by
supporting three specific goals:
–Helping your audience understand that your bad-news message
represents a firm decision
–Helping your audience understand that under the
circumstances, your decision was fair
–Helping your audience remain will disposed toward your
business and possibly toward you
•With the right tone, you can make an unwelcome point while
•The two basic strategies described are
–The indirect plan, which presents supporting data before
the main idea
–The direct plan, which presents the main idea before the
•Instead of beginning a business message with a blunt no,
which might keep your audience
from reading or listening to your reasons, use the indirect
plan to ease your audience into
the part of your message that demonstrates how you’re
fair-minded and eager to do
business on some other terms.
•The indirect plan consists of four parts
–Reasons supporting the negative decision
–A clear, diplomatic statement of the negative decision
–A helpful, friendly, and positive close
•The first step in using the indirect plan is to put the
audience in an accepting mood
by making a neutral, non-controversial statement closely
related o the point of the
•When composing your buffer, avoid giving the impression
that good news will follow.
•Avoid saying no •Avoid using a know-it-all tone
•Avoid wordy and irrelevant phrases and sentences •Avoid
•Avoid writing a buffer that is too long
•If you’ve done a good job of composing the buffer, the
reasons will follow naturally.
•Cover the more positive points first; then move on to the
less positive ones.
•Provide enough detail for the audience to understand your
reasons, but be concise; a long
roundabout explanation may make your audience impatient.
•The paragraph does a good job of stating the reasons for
–It provides enough detail to make the reason for the
refusal logically acceptable.
–It implies that the applicant is better off avoiding a
program in which he or she would
probably fail, given the background of others who would be
working alongside him or her.
–It doesn’t rest solely on company policy. A relevant policy
exists but is presented as logical
rather than rigid.
–It offers no apology for the decision.
–It avoids negative personal expressions (“You do not meet
The Bad News:
•When the bad news is a logical outcome of the reasons that
come before it, the audience is
psychologically prepared to receive it.
•However, the audience may still react emotionally if the
bad news is handled carelessly.
•Here are some methods for deemphasizing the bad news:
–Minimize the space or time devoted to it.
–Subordinate it in a complex or compound sentence (“My
department is already
shorthanded, so I’ll need all my staff for at least the next
–Embed it in the middle of a paragraph.
•Two other techniques are especially useful for saying no as
clearly but painlessly as
–First, using a conditional (if or when) statement that
implies the audience could possibly
have received or might someday receive a favorable answer:
“When you have more
managerial experience, you are welcome to reapply”
–The other technique is to tell the audience what you did
do, can do, or will do rather than
what you did not do, cannot do, or won’t do. Say “We sell
exclusively through retailers, and
the one nearest you that carries our merchandise is …”
rather than “We are unable to serve
you, so please call your nearest dealer.”
•It would not be ethical to overemphasize the positive.
•Be sure to avoid blunt statements that are likely to cause
pain and anger.
•The following phrases are likely to offend and should be
–I must refuse we must deny
–We cannot allow we must reject
•After giving the bad news, your job is to end the message
on a more upbeat note.
•Whatever type of close you choose, follow these guidelines:
–Don’t refer to or repeat the bad news.
–Don’t apologize for the decision or reveal any doubt that
the reasons will be accepted
(avoid statements such as “I trust our decision is
–Don’t urge additional communication (avoid saying anything
like “IF you have further
questions, please write”) unless you’re really to discuss
–Don’t anticipate problems (avoid statements such as “Should
you have further problems,
please let us know”)
–Don’t include clichés that are insincere in view of the bad
news (avoid saying “If we can be
of any help, please contact us”).
–Don’t reveal any doubt that you will keep the person as a
customer (avoid phrases such as
“We hope you will continue to do business with us”).
•A bad news message organized on the direct plan would start
with a clear statement of the
bad news, proceed to the reasons for the decision, and end
with a courteous close.
•Stating the bad news at the beginning has two potential
–It makes a shorter message possible
–The audience needs less time to reach the main idea of the
message, the bad news itself.
Conveying bad news about orders:
•For several reasons, businesses must sometimes convey bad
news concerning orders.
–To work toward an eventual sale along the lines of the
–To keep instructions or additional information as clear as
–To maintain an optimistic, confident tone so that your
reader won’t lose interest
•When you must back-order for a customer, you have one of
the two types of bad news to
–You’re able to send only part of the order
–You’re able to send none of the order