Ever had to deliver bad news to a customer? Of course you have, you’re a project manager, that’s part of your job. As difficult as it may be to deliver tough messages to your client, staying silent is even more damaging to both the project and the relationship. Here are the key reasons why bad news is better than no news at all.
One of your primary objectives as a project manager needs to be to maintain transparency with your customer and make them feel that you are not hiding anything from them. By being up front with difficult news it may produce some hard feelings (“why are you late on delivering?!”) but unless you know with certainty that your bad news will go away (hint: 99% of bad news doesn’t go away) then it’s best to get in front of it and make sure that your customer feels that you are being forthcoming.
If Transparency is one of your primary objectives, then maintaining trust is the ultimate goal. Without trust, you are done. Clients need to feel they can trust the project manager – the instant that the trust goes away, so does any ability to actively manage the project in an effective way for the project manager. Not to mention the damage this can do to your reputation with the customer going forward. Trust takes a long time to establish but only one negative event to destroy that built up trust. By being forthright and bringing your client in on bad news, you are signaling to them that you are accountable and responsible. While they may develop concerns on why you are in trouble in the first place, they will respect that you did not try to hide the bad news from them.
Plan for Action
Probably the simplest reason for why bad news is better than no news is that it allows everyone to contribute to an action plan to get out of the situation. Ideas don’t always need to come from the project manager or the project team, they can come from the customer as well. Once the project manager delivers the bad news, both the customer and the project team should work together to come up with a plan to steer the project back on track. By not bringing the customer into the fold early on, it hinders the project team in their efforts to get the project back on the rails.
Delivering bad news is never easy. It’s not the most glorious part of the job and can be a little painful. However sitting on your bad news because you’re afraid to share it will only amplify the problem and make your bad news even more difficult to deliver – plus you’ll have to answer the question “when did you know about this?” Get in front of it, own it and manage it.
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