Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Don't shoot the Messenger

“Sometimes its not the Message its the Messenger”

"Shooting the messenger" metaphoric phrase to describe the act of lashing out at the (blameless) the bearer of bad news ... "Don't shoot the messenger" was first expressed by Shakespeare in Henry IV, part 2 (1598) [citation needed] and in Antony and Cleopatra[1] (1606-07). An analogy of the phrase can come from the breaching of an invisible code of conduct in war, where a commanding officer was expected to receive and send back emissaries or diplomatic envoys sent by the enemy unharmed. During the early Warring States period of China, the concept of chivalry and virtue prevented the executions of messengers sent by opposing sides.

Bad news by definition is bad. So bear in mind "Clarity is the antedote to anxiety" ... use these 7 tips:-

1. Avoid putting the bad news between good news. The old good-bad-good combination only confuses people. Many victims of this approach walk away remembering the good news and forget the bad.

2. Just get it over with. If the person is about to get blasted, he won't benefit from a discussion about his weekend.

3. Use tact & be direct. If it isn't working out, say so.

4. Separate the person from the problem. Stay focused on behaviors, not personalities. The person may be a bad fit for that job and can be valuable to another organization. Your job is to judge performance, not people.

5. Do not rush it. Allow some time for discussion. The person may need to clarify what the bad news means.

6. Say it and be quiet. Leaders sometimes feel a need to go on and on. State your reasoning and be done. You give away your authority by justifying yourself too much.

7. Avoid telling people the whats and whys. Don't make bad news worse by telling people who don't need to know.

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