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The Intranet and The Art of Delivering Bad News to Employees

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Nobody wants to give — or receive — announcements about job cuts, company takeovers, raise freezes and other bad news.

But used wisely, the intranet can help cushion the blow and mitigate the inevitable backlash that arises from corporate bad news.

Before I go into the specifics of how your company intranet can do all this, let me emphasize that bad news should be delivered in person first. The intranet plays only a supporting role to facilitate and deepen engagement with employees. It is not the primary medium to deliver corporate bad news.

How to Use the Intranet to Help Deliver Bad News

1. Get maximum staff attendance in announcement event

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Most likely top management will call an all-staff meeting or something similar to make an in-person announcement of the bad news. You’ll want as many employees as possible to be present. The intranet can help with announcements on the home page and automated event reminders sent from the intranet calendar.

2. Share relevant info about the bad news

Firstly, post a written record of the bad news. This is most likely in the form of a memo, and should be posted after top executives deliver the news.

The general consensus is it’s a bad idea to give bad news via email. In fact, others contend email is the worst medium you could use for bad news. Email is considered cowardly in this situation.

You can also post a transcript of your meeting in the company intranet.

Supplement the announcement with documents that justify the announcement. Present the context or big picture, as well as all the facts. Paint a clear picture of what changes will occur due to the bad news.

Most importantly, use the intranet to disseminate the company’s solutions or action plan. Let staff know how management is handling the problem or working to prevent past problems or mistakes from happening again. Look for the silver lining, a reason for hope, the positive in the situation — but stay grounded in reality. Don’t give false hopes or try to make the situation look better than it is.

Use the intranet to post progress updates on the solution or action plan. This part of the intranet will have to be updated regularly and long after management delivered the bad news.

When creating or posting content, remember the various audiences you have: employees who are directly affected by the changes; those who are indirectly affected; internal and external audiences, etc. Tailor messages for each audience. You may even want to create an exclusive portal for those who are directly affected.

3. Give employees a sounding board

After the delivery of bad news, emotions run high. Staff need a place to vent and the intranet can be the best place for it. Create a blog, discussion forum or question manager as a safe space for employees to express themselves. Set up an anonymous user account, so employees can be candid, but make sure to set firm rules about remaining respectful. For example, don’t allow employees to attack people or post defamatory remarks on the intranet.

Use these spaces to get feedback and measure the emotional climate of your company. This feedback will then help you determine what other follow-up content and activities are needed.

Guiding principles

When using the intranet to augment the delivery of bad news remember that the following principles continue to apply:

  • fairness
  • respect
  • transparency
  • timeliness
  • clarity
  • honesty

And, no, this is not the right time to use humour.

It may be scary to put what could be considered “negative” content into your company intranet. But intranets that carry the bad along with the good are perceived as more credible than those that only present what’s positive.

Have you ever used your company intranet to help deliver bad news? What was your experience like? What did you do that was successful? What would you have done differently?

Share you experience below.

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