No matter what field, business, title, or industry you're working in, here's the magic step: when you have to deliver bad news at work, offer a solution along with it. This technique is a high performing tool of negotiation. I learned about its effective and high success rate when I worked in manufacturing at Avon a number of years ago. This one negotiation step works wonders and will make your life a lot easier. I even think that following this golden rule will open more doors for you, too, when you choose to practice it. I'll tell you why.

When Bad Management Decisions Happen To Good People

Here's a quick case study of what happened to me while working at Avon:

I was the quality assurance Avon lady at a manufacturing plant in a previous life. I was a 20 something female fresh out of college in charge of telling grown men - professional, seasoned, highly trained and paid - when their product was bad. Some of these men fought wars before I was born. Others were the first generation here in the U.S. I respected them even when we did not agree.

Because of an ill conceived management decision which delivered to these talented men an extra incentive for the amount of final product approved in one 8 hour shift, I was literally standing in their way. The processors needed my signature for them to get their incentive.

Delivering the Bad News

Here are three tips to keep in mind when delivering any bad news:

  • You can deliver bad news - such as a delay in delivery or change in specification - but think negotiation, and you are a key player at the poker table.
  • If your relationship doesn't sparkle with the person who you have to deliver bad news to, try to find at least one redeeming quality in that person. Sometimes, that can be very difficult! However, you will save yourself some wrinkles if you do practice this tip, so why not give it a try? Your brain will be in a better mode of operation and function if you choose to practice this one step, and the whole negotiation will probably go smoother.
  • Ask the right kinds of questions. Not about the weather or the ball game. Asking specific questions related to the process keeps the other person in a more open, receptive position. Asking questions reaffirms that you are not attacking, but are attempting to solve or troubleshoot a problem. Focus on the process, not the person.
Make the Offer

Go into every conversation with the belief and conviction that you are going to exit with a solution. With this mind frame, your brain will be prepared for the next right action.

So go for it! Offer a solution! Throw reasonable ideas out into the air! Someone else may build upon your idea and bang! The solution is discovered.

At Avon, we floated ideas into the air all the time. Sometimes, we disagreed and had to walk away from each other. Eventually we came back to the negotiation table. It was kind of like a dance. During the graveyard shift, sometimes the greatest tool we had to reach a solution was the break the pizza man afforded us when he delivered our pizzas and Coca-Cola at 3 in the morning.

Beverly Mau runs MAU Web Studio [], a business that delivers custom website and virtual product solutions for small businesses and start-ups in the Atlanta, Georgia area.

Her background is in analytical chemistry and techniques to drive business forward.

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