How to Deliver Not-So-Good News to Your Remote Team

As a leader, handling both positive and negative situations is part of the job.

Some days, you’re bursting with excitement to share good news with your team. Other times, it’s crucial to deliver bad news.

While delivering good news doesn’t always require a formal approach, handling bad news, especially with a remote team, demands a precise strategy.

In-House Team Communication vs. Remote Team Communication

There are three kinds of distance in remote collaboration: 

  • Physical (place and time)
  • Operational (team size, bandwidth and skill levels) 
  • Affinity (values, trust, and interdependency)

Technologies transform communication within remote teams. Many of the technologies your remote employees use today (e.g. email, shared workspaces, shared databases) are used equally by in-house employees. 

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However, in remote teams:

  • The communication must be ultra-clear regardless of the medium. In a virtual setting, you can not assume that others understand your cues. You need to lay an extra emphasis on word choice, punctuation, or emojis to reveal underlying emotions or biases.
  • Communication for virtual teams is often less frequent than that of in-person teams. It hampers immediate exchanges, hindering quick clarifications and impromptu discussions.

How to Deliver Bad News to Your Remote Team

Collaboration and communication is the biggest struggle with working remotely. In emotionally charged situations, bridging communication gaps requires extra effort.

1. Check Your Tech Setup

Having a robust tech setup is crucial for effectively communicating with a remote team, especially when delivering challenging news.

Before communicating bad news, ensure the reliability of your tech tools. Verify the stability of your internet connection and test your video conferencing software and other communication platforms to guarantee seamless functionality.

Uninterrupted communication fosters clear understanding and support. Dependable tools pave the way for a smoother, more empathetic delivery amid challenging situations.

2. Navigate Time Zones for Optimal Communication

It’s vital for inclusivity and participation, ensuring that each member can actively engage, voice concerns, seek clarification, and contribute to the discussion surrounding the challenging news.

It also prevents any team member from feeling excluded or burdened due to inconvenient timing, allowing for a more cohesive and considerate approach to handling the bad news.

3. Elevate Human Connection With Video Communication

According to Loom, 91% of remote employees faced message misunderstandings, while 97% felt the need to clarify tones in digital communication.

Hence, face-to-face communication is better. It helps to build trust through nonverbal cues such as:

When team members can see each other, it humanizes the conversation, reinforcing a sense of authenticity and sincerity. It helps remote team members feel more connected and understood, reducing the emotional distance inherent in remote work setups.

For instance, imagine you need to announce a significant change in project timelines. Through a video call, your team can witness your genuine concern through facial expressions.

The image below depicts the importance of effective synchronous communication for immediate issue resolution. Email (bottom-left) is ineffective, causing overload and disregarded messages. Face-to-face interactions (in-person/video calls) are best suited for essential matters rather than purely social purposes.

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4. Foster Empathy in Virtual Settings

Tailor your communication style and preferences to your team members, recognizing that different people have different ways of communicating, working, and learning. 

After conveying bad news, actively listen to your team members’ opinions and concerns, acknowledging both spoken and unspoken thoughts. When remote team members receive bad news, whether it’s about a setback, failure, or difficult situation, displaying empathy helps validate their emotions and concerns, making them feel heard and supported.

Encourage open communication for a healthier exchange of thoughts, concerns, and potential solutions.

5. Include a Written Statement to Avoid Miscommunication

A written statement is a must to prevent miscommunication and ensure clarity.

Do it in every situation, without fail. 

People have different learning styles—some are visual learners, while others grasp information better through auditory means. 

Human memory is fallible, and details conveyed verbally might be misremembered or misunderstood. A written statement serves as a tangible reference that complements verbal communication and acts as a reference point, reinforcing the key points and details of the bad news.

Also, it can include additional context or details that might be challenging to cover comprehensively in a verbal exchange. 

6. Encourage Follow-Up Discussion via a Dedicated Channel

Follow-up discussions allow team members to express their emotions, concerns, and opinions after absorbing the initial impact of the bad news.

This dedicated channel can be via Slack, Zoom, email, or any other preferred team app.

It allows you to provide additional context, answer questions, and address specific concerns, ensuring that everyone has a clear and comprehensive understanding of the situation.

These follow-up discussions contribute to team cohesion and resilience. It encourages open dialogue allowing remote team members to collectively brainstorm potential solutions, share coping strategies, or offer support to one another.

Prepare When Delivering Bad News 

Face-to-face communication, even if virtual, makes a big difference, especially when things are tough.Remember there is no one-size-fits-all approach to communication. When sharing bad news, consider your remote employees’ personalities and needs, and alter your words, tone and depth to help them understand and accept the message more easily.

About the Author

Avika Dixit is a freelance content writer for B2B SaaS companies in marketing, sales, and eCommerce. When she’s not working, you will find her binge-watching movies.