“Nothing travels faster than the speed of light, with the possible exception of bad news, which obeys its own set of laws.” – Douglas Adams
“A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its pants.” – Mark Twain
Bad news, rumors, and downright falsehoods can spread like wildfire. This is simply human nature, and we’ve all experienced it, typically starting in grade school.
For business owners, this is nothing to joke about. Whether your workforce consists of 2 people or 200, gossip and rumors have the capacity to wreak havoc on morale and productivity. Whether it’s a rumor that layoffs are right around the corner, fears that a competitor is about to put you out of business or a production setback that delays order fulfillment, negative news spreads like wildfire.
The spread of bad news has real consequences. It may cause your employees to start looking for a job at another company. Your customers may get word of your internal difficulties and decide to take their business elsewhere. I’ve seen this happen many times over my years in business – and I’d bet you have too.
What should you do when you’re facing a crisis? First and most importantly – keep calm. Don’t panic and say something that you may regret. The moment you lose control of your emotions is the moment you lose control over the message that will spread through your workforce and your market.
As you’re processing bad news, whether it’s the loss of a huge client or some other setback, determine whether or not your team needs to be updated. Most of the time, they DO need to be informed. Your employees aren’t stupid… they’ll figure out what’s happening. And, if you don’t explain it, most of the time their assumptions will be even worse than the reality.
Once you’ve determined that the news must be shared, figure out the message. Don’t sugarcoat things – be honest. Explain the situation, and explain the steps that must be taken to resolve them.
Then, explain what can and cannot be shared with customers. If bad news must be shared, be sure to give it a positive spin, i.e. our manufacturer experienced a setback and it’s going to slow us down a few weeks, but we’re working as hard as possible to get back on line, and once we are, our products will be better than ever.
Unfortunately, bad things happen in business. There’s no getting around it, but you can control your reaction. It’s essential that, when crisis strikes, you remain calm, in control and maintain control over the message.