Communicating About a Loss

Linda Dulye's picture

If you're a sports fan, you’re certainly familiar with the depth of coverage your team receives in the papers and on TV – win or lose.

As excruciating as it might be to relive a blowout or last-second loss the day after, you do read about it or listen to analysis anyway. Why? Because you want to understand why it happened.

Can the same be said about a loss at work? Probably not. Often the loss of a key client or contract isn’t discussed in any depth and, in our view, that’s a missed opportunity. There are many benefits to be gained from sharing bad news with your employees:
  • Eliminates the fear of speaking up. Employees are skeptical about organizations that tend to sugarcoat information. Pretending that there’s only good news – or, worse yet, acting as if employees can’t handle bad news. Talking about a rough patch demonstrates a willingness to talk about the tough issues and lets employees know they can speak up too.
  • Reinforces lessons learned. Communicating the why behind the loss is essential in helping correct course for the future. Straight talk about your company’s shortcomings – missed product delivery timelines, budget overruns, customer-service issues – shows courage. And, it lets employees know what areas need to be shored up to keep existing customers and avoid another loss.
  • Improves collaboration. Perhaps the loss was fueled not by one department but many. Or by a combination of your company and a key supplier. As tempting as it might be to point fingers after a loss, talk with your vendors and see where disconnects occurred; explore how your internal functions collaborate – or don’t. Ask for feedback from employees, vendors, suppliers and partners. Share with your employees how a lost account will boost the level of collaboration.
Talking about a loss won’t be easy. In fact, it might be downright uncomfortable. The long-term benefits of looking critically at your operations – and allowing employees to weigh in on what’s not working – will be worth the short-term pain. And, it will make the good news all the more appreciated.


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