How not to break bad news to your team

Monday, November 11th, 2013 By Jack Nevison

It was no secret that Patch, the collection of hyperlocal news sites owned by AOL Huffington Post, was in trouble.

It was a Friday afternoon in August, and CEO Tim Armstrong was expected to announce his plan to reverse the company's sagging fortunes and return it to profitability by the end of the year. Most of the Patch employees sitting in the conference room knew that this would mean layoffs.

According to a recent article in Business Insider, Armstrong began his statement with an upbeat, confident tone. But that quickly changed.

An employee named Abel took a picture of Armstrong. The CEO suddenly stopped speaking.

"Abel, put that camera down right now," he said. "Abel, you're fired."

Then he carried on with his speech.

If employees in the room weren't feeling down about the company's prospects before, they certainly were after Armstrong's outburst. News of what transpired soon spread across the internet, as many wondered what could have possibly caused Armstrong to make such a rash decision. The reasons turned out to be complex. Patch was Armstrong's creation, and the coming cuts deeply distressed him. Also, Abel had been "explicitly told" not to take any pictures two days earlier. But Armstrong's angry display needlessly damaged both company image and employee morale.

Project managers are expected to lead their teams through good times and bad. But they cannot lead effectively if they cannot master their emotions and deliver bad news with poise and an eye toward the future. Company morale is crucial to success, The best managers know this and work to protect it.

At New Leaf Project Management, we know that it is important to teach managers how to lead in troubled times. Our program, "Leading Project Teams: The Human Side of Performance" can show you how to keep an even keel with your team, no matter what. QPM, our online estimating games, lets you learn while you earn PDUs for PMP recertification.

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