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How Delivering Bad News Can Be A Good Thing.

No one likes bad news. Hence the reason it is called BAD. However, life is not perfect and sometimes things go wrong. The next question is what do we do with information perceived as “bad news” to our clients? In his article, “10 Ways That Small Businesses Can Enchant Their Customers,” Guy Kawasaki says “Deliver bad news early.” Delivering bad news early helps to minimize its effects and allows the client to make more informed decisions. More information will minimize the impact that the lack of information and perceived deception might have caused. I often tell clients that one of the greatest causes of trust failure, anger and disappointment comes from withholding information from another party.

Recently, I’ve been involved in the purchase of a new home. Because we are moving further into the country we decided to take advantage of a particular loan product for more rural development. The problem is that these products are slow to close because they involve the ever-so-slow Federal Government. We knew going into this process that it would be a longer than usual closing. Circumstances required us to close by a certain date and our loan officer assured us we would close by that date if not earlier. Through a series of misfires in the revelation of certain key information, we began to get frustrated and angered over the lack of information flow. The closing date promised came and went and what was to be a 24 day process ended up taking nearly 50-days to complete. This culminated in our contacting the bank and telling them we were abandoning the process and planned to do something else. Needless to say, our anger over the matter caught their attention and culminated in a meeting with the Vice President. Here is what went wrong… from the very beginning; lack of information began to erode our confidence in the organization and individuals we were working with. This is human nature – we need to know we can trust someone. When we withhold important information from our clients it destroys the trust factor altogether. I agree with Guy Kawasaki in that we would have rather had the bad news at the beginning rather than to be surprised and angered in the middle of the process. Because we are human and humans are infallible, we have to accept the fact that we will disappoint and fall short of our promises. The key to success is not in the failure but in owning the failure and providing as much information as possible and as soon as possible so that all parties involved can make a better decision. This may require coaching your employees on how to respond to a failure and how to help the client through that process. Silence and blame games will only upset and frustrate and already exacerbated situation. Finally, after threatening to walk away, the bank took our concerns serious enough to sit with us and listen to where we felt the failure in the process came in. Even though our meeting didn’t change the fact that our closing took longer than promised, we are now able to make more informed decisions. Equipping your clients is a good thing… even if it means that they jump ship and abandon the project. The key here is not necessarily a completed project in-so-much as a client who knows you have their best interest in mind and that they TRUST you and your organization. You may lose out on a short-term financial gain but you will keep a client much longer. Trust is more valuable than Gold because trust produces referrals and referrals build businesses… not anger.


Philip A Foster is considered a Thought Leader in Business Operations, Organization and Strategic Leadership. He is a prolific writer, published author and lectures internationally. His most recent e-book “Organization 3.0 – The Evolution of Leadership and Organizational Theories Toward an Open System for the 21st Century” is available exclusively on Amazon.  Philip is certified in both Leadership and coaching and serves as Adjunct professor at Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro, TN. He is the Founder and CEO of Maximum Change Leadership and Business Consulting, serving clients from around the world. He is a Doctor of Strategic Leadership candidate with emphasis in Strategic Foresight and holds a Master of Art in Organizational Leadership, both from Regent University, Virginia. He can be reached at

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