Unless you’re a sociopathic (and I’m sure none of my readers are), you probably don’t enjoy delivering bad news. It could be announcing that the quarterly numbers aren’t on target, letting someone know that they underperformed, admitting that you made a mistake or telling someone that they no longer have a job with your organization.
Working up the courage and intestinal fortitude to do any of those things can be tough. So tough, in fact, that many people find it easier to rip the proverbial Band-Aid off slowly. You know, one excruciating arm hair at a time. You sit on the information. You agonize over what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it. How much should you share at once? How will people react? Pluck, pluck, pluck. Ouch, ouch, ouch.
This post is an argument for ripping the Band-Aid off fast. It’s going to hurt either way, so why not get it over with? Here are some thoughts on how and why to do it fast.
The subject of Band-Aid ripping has come up in our house recently as my wife, life and business partner, Diane, has been trying to figure what to do after the local YWCA, where she runs Jazzercise classes, closes next month. The news of the Y closing came out of the blue. Diane loves teaching and nurturing a community of students. She had only bought the classes at the beginning of the year, was growing the business and had big plans for the future.
As soon as she heard the closure news a couple of months ago, Diane got to work on finding a new place to hold the classes and told her students what she was doing. She probably investigated at least 100 different places to hold the classes and, in the end, none of them worked.
That was when the Band-Aid moment came. With no other place to hold the classes, she had to figure out what to tell her students and when to tell them. Her initial thought was to keep it to herself and her head class manager for as long as possible. She felt terrible about the change and was concerned about upsetting her community. She didn’t want her students to bail out on her before the classes ended. She spent a few days sorting through her options in her head. By the end of that first week, she was so stressed out, she knew she had to go ahead and rip that Band-Aid off fast.
She’s been up front with her students every step of the way and shared the news of the closing in a heartfelt newsletter and by being visible in the classes she doesn’t teach personally. She has worked with another class owner in the next town over to ensure that her students are welcomed there and has secured an introductory discount for them as part of the deal. There have been some minor dramatic moments with students here and there but it’s all gone smoothly for the most part. Everyone is informed, appreciative of her efforts and planned to gather one last time for a dance-it-out blow-out.
Here’s what I’ve learned from Diane about how and why to rip the Band-Aid off fast:
- Keeping bad news to yourself leads to internalizing your stress. That makes you anxious and leads to poor decisions. It also makes you feel bad and leads to poor health.
- Sharing as much as you can share with your community as quickly as you can enables you to control what you can control. It also gives other people the opportunity to help.
- People appreciate honesty because they can make informed choices. When you treat people like adults, they usually act like adults.
- Once you rip the Band-Aid off, keep people informed about what’s happening. Again, it shows you value them as people and gives them opportunities to help.
- Sharing the news early allows you and everyone else involved the opportunity to work through the change curve, the stages of grief or whatever you want to call it. By the time you get to the end of the process most people have accepted the change – however it turns out.