April 8, 2020

Best Practices for Breaking Bad News

Many companies have seen backlash on social media and in the press for poor internal communications over layoffs, salary cuts and other personnel cuts amid the outbreak. The line between internal and external communications is thin in this environment: Internal memos have become public quickly and laid off employees are turning to the press to express their frustrations. With in-person communication out of the question and one-on-one communication increasingly difficult – especially for companies announcing policies that affect hundreds or even thousands of employees – what are the best practices? Here are a few tips for breaking bad news:

  1. Be clear: Don’t make an announcement until you’re ready to do so without ambiguity or confusion. Be as transparent as possible, don’t sugarcoat the bad news and make sure you have answers to any question that could be asked.
  2. Don’t make it about you: Save all of your concern and sympathy for your employees, rather than reminding them how difficult it is for you.
  3. Show your face: Rather than just an email or phone call, show your employees a human face on video if possible. It’s also a good idea to follow up with something in writing, but that’s secondary.
  4. Reach out personally: As much as is possible, make sure everyone affected hears from someone one-on-one in a reasonable time so they feel seen and respected.

Presidential Campaign Down to Two Men and a Pandemic

Now that the presidential contest is a two-man race with Sen. Bernie Sanders dropping out of the Democratic primary, the COVID-19 response will be the defining issue of the campaign in coming months with other topics facing a challenge to break through. A GPG analysis of news coverage since the start of the year shows how the pandemic has dominated the national conversation. COVID-19 has cannibalized other media topics, rising steadily with no sign of leveling off even as the number of articles overall remains steady. President Trump has the advantage of commanding media attention as he leads the nation’s response, while former Vice President Joe Biden is stuck at home unable to campaign in any traditional sense. Expect Biden to try to turn Trump’s handling of the crisis against him, even as the president’s approval ratings have been strong among the outbreak. The pandemic also has raised issues like health care, the economy and paid leave to the top of voters’ minds, so we also can expect to see policy prescriptions for those matters more prominent on both campaigns’ agendas.

COVID-19 by the Numbers


PPP: Popular, Perplexing, Political

Less than a week after the program began, the Paycheck Protection Program approved as part of the coronavirus relief package is already running out of money and sparking confusion and political debate. The $350 billion program run by the Small Business Administration is designed to keep employees paid during the COVID-19 pandemic. Small businesses are rushing to get applications in as quickly as possible, but the number of detailed implementation questions rises by the day, some of which have not yet been decided by the SBA. The issues include:

  • how to count part-time workers
  • the definition of a full-time employee
  • how seasonal businesses adapt their applications.

While the Administration and Senate Republicans have proposed an additional $250 billion in funding for the program as soon as tomorrow, congressional Democratic leadership countered today with a $500 billion proposal that would also support the healthcare industry and local governments along with additional small business loans. As of writing, an agreement between Republican and Democratic leadership has not yet been met, but it could be politically difficult for either side to stop any action that could benefit small businesses, hospitals or states. Still, additional PPP funding remains in limbo amid the structural issues that have arisen.

June is Bustin’ Out All Over?

Recent polling from the Kaiser Family Foundation shows Americans have been rallying around measures to slow the spread of coronavirus, with eight-in-ten supporting them and 96% reporting they have been social distancing or sheltering in place. And they are increasingly skeptical that these disruptions will end soon. There is growing public speculation that social distancing restrictions could last through the spring. In a recent ABC News/Ipsos poll, a third of adults (31%) don’t expect to return to a normal routine until June. Social conversations on Twitter reflects a similar trend, where the volume of conversation about social distancing until June has steadily increased over the last month.