“Take this Job and Shove it…”

How to nicely say not so nice things.


Main goals in Bad news messages:


1.     Convey the bad news in a positive manner, use word choices and tone that stays upbeat and avoids placing blame.

2.     Gain your audience’s acceptance.  This means crafting an audience-centered message.

3.     Keep as much goodwill as possible between you and the recipient.  This includes maintaining a good image of your business and making the audience feel that the matter has been considered seriously and fairly.


Types of Bad news Messages:

 1.     Product or service related: order cancellations, refusal of license, refusal of claims or complaints, negative company image.

2.     Application related: refusal of a job application, refusal to write a letter of recommendation, refusal of employment by the prospective employee.

3.     Job related: negative performance reviews, terminating employment.


Indirect Approach:

(Best for bad news letters that will displease the audience)

1.     Offer a brief buffer as the first point.  This is a neutral, yet not                        misleading, statement with which the audience can agree.  It transitions well into the next section.

2.     Give your reasons for the bad news.  Unlike good news letters, bad news letters need a little more finesse and the information must be handled with more delicacy.  Bluntly putting bad news first might offend or lose your audience.

3.     Sandwich bad news between positive information.  Be clear yet allow the emphasis to fall on the positive. Remember, emphasis comes with space, so if you would like to de-emphasize the bad news, be concise and give less space to it. Bad news can also be de-emphasized by use of the passive voice.  This would also be the section of the letter to suggest an alternative, if appropriate.

4.     Renew goodwill in the closing.  Be pleasant and forward-looking.  Though conclusions usually summarize, bad news letters often deal with delicate matters, so avoid bringing up bad news again.


Direct Approach:

(Best if the writer knows that the audience prefers the bad news first, if the situation is minor, if the reader will not be disappointed, or if a firm tone is needed.)

1.      Relay bad news first.  This approach does not seem as manipulative as the indirect and stating the bad news first frees the writer to clarify the situation for the rest of the message.

2.      Explain the reasons that this course of action was taken.  Spend time on these reasons to clearly explain to the audience why the course of action was chosen.  Again, offer alternatives here if any exist.

3.     Soothe the reader with a positive and forward-looking closing.



Back to Assignment #5


Adapted from: Bovee, Courtland L and John V. Thill, eds. Business Communication Today. 6th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. 2000.