There’s a reason honesty is both precious and rare. It’s hard. But it’s also the best course of action when delivering bad news. (Or in pretty much any other situation.)
“Don’t sugarcoat the message!” Aslinia emphasizes. “Tackle the issue. This might be the most difficult step, but until the issue is unwrapped, there can be no solution.”
Let’s say you have to terminate someone’s employment. The person, who probably knows what’s coming as soon as the invitation to meet with you and HR lands in her inbox, does not want to hear a preamble. She does not want to hear euphemisms. She wants to know what she suspects is true so that she can start taking next steps.
Even if the conversation is less dire than a termination, hedging only gets in the way. If you have to tell an employee she did a poor job on a presentation, don’t prolong the inevitable with opaque language and modifiers. “Your presentation had some good nuggets, and maybe you could review it to make sure you have the latest data available” is a lot harder to grow from than “This was a good start, but you need to practice your delivery to improve your confidence. We also need to update your data on slides 2 through 5. Let’s set up a working session to address the information part.”
“It’s often harder to do the right thing,” Aslinia concedes. “But while it might consume more time and energy, it communicates respect to a fellow human.”
So, be kind — but be direct.