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Management Communication

Writing a bad news message


1. 2. 3. 4. Stress what something is rather than what it is not. emphasize what the firm or product can and will do rather than what it cannot. open with action rather than apology or explanation. avoid words which convey unpleasant facts.
Pasted from <http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/654/1/>

Embedded Position
Place good news in positions of high emphasis: at the beginnings and endings of paragraphs, letters, and even sentences. Place bad news in secondary positions: in the center of paragraphs, letters, and, if possible, sentences.
Pasted from <http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/654/1/>

With our rigid quality standards, corrections of Adidas merchandise run less than .02 percent of our total line. Because of an oversight in our stitching department, a damaged needle was inadvertently used and caused the threads to come loose in these particular bags. Since we now have a check on all our machine needles before work each day, you can be assured that the stitching on our Adidas carrying bags will last the lifetime of the bags. Thank you for calling our attention to the loose stitching.
Pasted from <http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/654/1/>

A negative message is any message to which the reader will have an unpleasant emotional reaction. Readers find negative messages disappointing or threatening in some way. Such messages require special care to avoid damaging the quality of the relationship because the negative messagethe bad newswill hurt the readers feelings or cause him or her to lose face. If you have interviewed the reader for a job and have selected another candidate, for example, the readers ego is involved in your response even if he or she has already decided on another job with another organization. In such cases, the opening should pace the readers expectation by mentioning something about the subject with which the reader will agree. Such letters require extra carethe more the negative information concerns the reader as a person, the greater the need for psychological preparation. Telling your reader that you cant fill an order because you are out of stock will not hurt his or her feelings as much as would your refusing to extend credit.

Not all messages saying no are negative. For a message to be negative, the readers ego must be involved in the outcome. If a reader requests information you and others in your organization are not equipped to provide, for example, the readers feelings will not be hurt when you direct him or her elsewhere. Treat

messages of this variety as you would a message conveying positive information: state the most important information first, and use it to help establish rapport with the reader. Also, be aware that saying no is more serious in some cultures than it The best preparation for bad news is a logical and believable reason that the negative message is in the readers long-term best interest. If the situation does not allow that approach, at least show that your reason is legitimate, and help your reader save face by suggesting alternative courses of action or ways to compensate for a shortcoming. The fact that a positive alternative exists, however, is not a reason for refusal. The advantages of buying with cash (such as a discount) are not a reason to refuse credit.

Openings for negative messages are often called buffer beginnings because they are designed to buffer the negative message that will follow. Buffers are designed to establish rapport by being positivesomething with which the reader will agree or perhaps an honest compliment. To be effective, however, they must also introduce the subject of the message without misleading the reader into thinking that the message is positive and without foreshadowing the negative. Also, recent research suggests that not everyone appreciates a buffer beginning. For these reasons, buffers are usually brief. Thank you for allowing us to examine your ABC. [In a letter refusing warranty coverage.] Starting 1 May, you will have access to more than 500 channels on Infobahn Cable Service. [In a letter announcing an increase in rates.]
Pasted from <http://homepages.wmich.edu/~bowman/badnews.html>

Lead
As is typically the case in informational messages, the explanation and reasons provide the transitional element from the opening to the kinds of win-win solutions possible. Note that neither company policy nor the size of the organization (either large or small) is a real reasonif you have a policy, you should have a reason for it. Also note that one absolute reason is sufficient. Use more than one reason only when the individual reasons are weakand be sure you have a good reason before saying no automatically. Be especially careful to avoid negative transitions. Such words as but, however, although, and even though signal a turn for the worse. When we examined your ABC, we discovered that the video card had been installed incorrectly, which caused a number of circuits to short out. [Provides transition from the opening to the reason for the refusal. Note that passive voice helps subordinate what is probably the readers mistake.] So that we may continue to bring you the kind of cable service you desire, please review the enclosed list of optional packages and new pricing structure and let us know your preference. [Provides transition from the opening to the rate increase. Note that the emphasis is on the reader benefit the increase will bring.] To receive the envelopes that will best meet your needs. . . . [Provides transition and emphasizes the reader benefit.]
Pasted from <http://homepages.wmich.edu/~bowman/badnews.html>

Blend Outcomes
When possible, be specific about the ways in which you can help the reader meet his or her needs, even though you are unwilling or unable to do things in the way he or she requested or desires. Your refusing to extend credit now, for example, may keep your reader out of future credit difficulties. Saying no to a special request may be necessary to help you keep prices low. Subordinate the negative information itself by emphasizing a positive alternative, using positive language, and avoiding blaming the reader for having caused problems. When possible, put the most negative element in a subordinate clause. Although the improper installation of the video card nullifies the warranty on your ABC, we can repair the ABC and reinstall the video card for $479. Even though our banquet facilities are already booked for the evening of 15th, we would be able to accommodate your group for lunch that day or for lunch or dinner on the 16th. As soon as you decide which envelopes best meet your needs, fax your order to me for fast service.
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