I was coaching a visibly upset client the other day while they recounted a conversation they had with their leader. According to my client, the leader delivered some tough information to them but did so in a way that felt punitive instead of corrective or constructive. I’m not sure it helped when according to my client, the information was sealed with “How are you going to be successful if I don’t tell you what you’re doing wrong, and how you should be doing it better? That’s the job of a leader.” 

Is it any wonder the person on my screen looked like they just took a punch to the gut? 

As noted in April 5th’s Thought Partner, The Gift of Information, conversations need to be rooted in good intentions, delivered respectfully and serve the purpose of moving relationships and projects forward. I’m not sure this conversation hit those marks. 

There was a need to receive the information; my client acknowledged such. However, what this particular leader lacked, among a few other opportunities, was understanding the possible aftermath. Did you know that nearly 80% of employees either actively or passively look for new employment almost immediately after receiving harsh information? Yikes.

Life and work aren’t always peachy and information, positive and negative, flows continuously throughout the day. So what then is a leader to do?

Manage the Aftermath.

Here are a few tips to consider trying after delivering tough information:

1. Create Space – Hearing negative and disappointing information creates stress in our brains and bodies. Before someone can bounce back to see new opportunities and possibilities, they need recovery time. Create some space for them to recharge from their setback to create their comeback. Even if you want to show immediate kindness, give them some space instead.

2. Keep it Moving – Don’t ignore or pretend the conversation didn’t happen and don’t offer to take the person to lunch (they created an excuse to decline the offer, by the way). Acknowledge their disappointment and try to remind them of their goals. If you are a good leader you know their goals and aspirations. Try to refocus them on moving toward those vs. reliving the past, which is unchangeable. 

3. Help – Contrary to the management style of my client’s leader (it wasn’t a leadership style) my client didn’t need a spoon-feeding on how they needed to do things a better way. What they might have needed was to be asked the question “How can I help?” They didn’t need their leader to do their job, but maybe they did need help. Asking how you can help is a great way to ensure that you do. The other approach was unsuccessful.