Project Management

8 Ways to Minimize the Impact of Bad News

Elizabeth is a freelance writer and project manager living and working in London. She runs The Otobos Group, a project communications consultancy specializing in project management.

You don’t have to be a seasoned project manager to know that there are often moments where the work doesn’t go to plan. One of my earliest project management memories was realizing the formulae in my budget spreadsheet were wrong—and we were overspent on my project by a lot. Having to communicate that bad news to the project manager (as I wasn’t leading the project at that time) was difficult, although she took it surprisingly well.

Since then, I’ve had plenty of other times where I’ve had to share news that wasn’t going to get anyone popping the champagne. Whether it’s a supplier going bust, an internal problem or the impact of a global crisis, at some point in your career there will be bad news to share with the rest of the team.

Here are some tips for handling those situations and managing your project communications in a crisis:

1. Lay the groundwork before there is a crisis
Always start from the assumption that things might not work out as well as you had planned (this is the basis of risk management, so it’s an easy habit to get into!). Think about what you would need in place should there be bad news to communicate. That’s usually:

  • Good relationships with stakeholders (so they take your call)
  • Trusted relationships with stakeholders (so they believe you when you say it’s bad)
  • Credible

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"People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don't believe in circumstances. The people who get on in the world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want and, if they can't find them, make them."

- George Bernard Shaw