Don’t Shoot the Messenger

Oct 23, 2015


You’ve probably all heard the phrase “Don’t shoot the messenger,” because at one point or another, we’ve all been there. Delivering bad news to a co-worker, manager, or executive is never easy, but in my line of work, running into contradictory points of view or delivering bad news comes with the territory. If you’ve survived being the messenger a time or two in your career, congratulations! If you have yet to don the messenger cap (or have, and are looking for new ideas), I want to share some strategies that have helped me handle these uncomfortable situations.


When you know that you have to deliver something uncomfortable, be certain to check (and re-check) your facts. Spend the time necessary to gather all of the details that you can about the message. Has new data been uncovered? How did the challenge come up and how was it discovered? Thinking through the facts of the situation will help when it comes to communicating your message.


You may become emotionally vested in the insight you’ve uncovered while gathering information, so it’s very easy to lead with that emotion. However, when it comes to delivering the message, you have to keep your emotions in check. It’s not your job to force the other party to accept your message at face value. Keeping your emotions in check will help make it an easier conversation about any next steps.


Before delivering the message, think ahead as to what the impact may be. Is it financial? Is it urgent? Is it avoidable? Think through the various scenarios and come prepared with a point of view and approach to collaborate on. With change comes opportunity, so understanding the business implications behind your message becomes key when sharing it with a wider audience.

The longer you are in the working world, the more likely it is that you will have to be the messenger. Even though it may seem uncomfortable, there is no reason to dread those times. Thinking about the facts of the situation, keeping your emotions in check, and understanding the full impact of the information will allow you to confidently handle those uncomfortable situations and push through successfully.