How to Deliver Benefits Bad News to Your Employees


Delivering bad news can be a nightmare if you haven’t done your homework! Employees are usually reluctant to change especially when the change would affect them, either directly or indirectly.

An HR pro looking after the benefit side can relate to the pressure they feel when they’ve been asked to deliver bad benefit news. While intrinsic motivation is a thing, a major chunk of people switch their jobs because of the salary package or the benefits offered by the organization. According to a survey conducted by CareerBuilder and an article on Forbes, when employees were asked to mention the reason for not wanting to leave their current job, 49% of them said it’s because they’re satisfied with the benefits offered by the company they work for. Eliminating, reducing or changing the benefits might end up disappointing your employees, you can’t control the news that you’ve been asked to deliver but you can definitely control how you share it, you need to do your homework before you actually go and deliver that news to your employees.

Here’s a 5-step communication system that an HR pro should keep in mind, before delivering benefit bad news to employees: (Reference: Webcast by Tim Sackett – certified by SHRM)

1.      Understand the audience.

Understanding the audience can help you choose the right communication strategy. While you may be obligated to share the news with all the employees, you need to understand who’s going to be more affected by the news so you can come up with a follow up plan. “one for all” communication strategy might not be the right option while delivering bad news, one way to do it effectively is to split your audience into groups based on the level of impact they might have from the news/ change and cater them at their level.

Another thing to keep in mind is to avoid playing blame games. Saying “I’m just a messenger and this is what I’ve being told to do so” might turn out to be a disaster. You need to take the accountability, own and communicate the decision to them and tell them the reason behind the change. Blaming it on the rain will only worsen the situation.

2.      Come up with a follow up plan:

Delivering bad news and going silent might be the worst case for such situation. You need to come up with a follow up plan so you can communicate to people who’re being affected the most, by that change.

Removing the bandage might be hard, but if you do it positively with the right tone, it might actually yield a positive impact. A smart way to do so is to come up with a communication plan, prior to delivering the bad news. Explaining how things will work is the right thing for an initial level of communication. As time pass by, you may ask employees how they feel about the change and if they’d like to suggest something better. Engaging employees even in their bad times shows that their opinion matters to you and that you’ll try your best to come up with a win/win situation.

3.      Don’t forget about your team

Selling the idea to your own team before selling it to others is important; especially when your team members are also going to be affected by the change. Tell them that it’s okay to be upset and they don’t have to fake being happy, if the topic comes up while delivering the news. If your team doesn’t accept the change, how can you expect others to do so? Employees don’t care how much you fought, all they care about the impact and the end result. That is why they resist change; they want things to be the way they are now.

Using the right words in the bad times is a crucial task for an HR bad news delivery pro. It’s their duty to ensure employees that they’re only going to do what’s best for their employees and be transparent about the reasons that led to this change. Seeking advice from or consulting other HR pros (3rd party) might give you some really good ideas about doing things rightly but again, there’s no exact formula for it, you’ll have to mix and match, keeping in mind your employees’ needs and your organizational culture.

4.      Don’t beat about the bush

Give it to them straight and avoid surprises. Negative surprises kill culture - Good communication is all you need! Choose the right communication strategy and deliver the news, straight forward. Tell them this is what we’re doing and this is why we’re doing it. Ensure them that whatever the next step will be, you’ll keep them in the loop and that you’re with them if they have any concerns. Tell them its okay to be upset, but also make sure they know you’re doing only what’s best for you and the company.

Sandwiching the bad news between good news might not be the right move; best way is to give it to them straight. Besides, no one will ever focus on the good news when they know there’s a bad news coming after.

5.      Cater their concerns

Delivering the news and becoming radio silent will only end up disappointing your employees. Since change is always difficult and you need some unfreezing before you actually freeze the new change; employees may bombard you with a lot of questions, all you need to do it to be honest and straight forward, back up your explanation with more data and less emotions. Being Honest, frank, helpful & well prepared will make the job less difficult.

Right way to deal with inappropriate questions is to save them for later. Ask the employee to meet you in person on a mutually scheduled time and tell them that you’d like to discuss the matter in detail with him. Prepare yourself before you actually step into the meeting room - delaying the question is also an art one needs to learn, you have to remain polite yet professional.

And the most important thing….

Don’t just show support, be the support!

Telling them it’s going to be okay won’t make them feel any better, showing them how it’s going to be okay will make them less anxious and satisfied. All they need at that time is your support and you show support when you actually do something better for them, so the real task begins after you deliver the news! Come up with options – they may not be perfect – but that would make them feel that the organization cares about them and will only do what’s best for them.


Originally posted by Kiran Hamid on LinkedIn.



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